In a press conference regarding the murder of a young girl, an Indian state minister felt the need to clarify that the rape of minors can be considered rape, but the rape of married women is not.
While discussing an issue that has reached national headlines, a state minister in Uttar Pradesh by the name of Upendra Tiwari took a sharp turn to discuss something totally unrelated—the difference between the sexual assault of a minor and the sexual assault of a married woman above 30.
“If there is a minor girl who has been raped, we consider it to be rape. But in some cases, we see married women, who are 30 to 35 years of age, that is another nature,” Tiwari announced in Hindi to a crowd of reporters.
Tiwari went on to say that while the sexual assault of minor girls is real, women above 30 often complain of rape after being in relationships for years. “...for 7-8 years there would be an affair, then complaint of rape comes...Such matters should have been raised then."
Confusingly enough, the crime at hand had no relation to rape. The murder of the young girl ruled out rape as the autopsy report revealed. Rape allegations had simply been fuelled by speculation on social media.
More importantly, who asked? The minister’s remarks not only come in a heated moment as the young girl’s murder sparks outrage, but also incites anger of its own. Not only did the minister fail to answer the reporter’s question, but used the time to espouse a view that is misguided, uncalled for, and dangerous.
Last year, Delhi police reported that at least five women are raped everyday in the city. Tiwari’s comments on married women aged 30-35 may seem arbitrarily specific, but it is actually a reflection of country policy. Horrifyingly, India does not recognise marital rape as a criminal offence.
Ultimately, Tiwari’s statement is completely disrespectful to women everywhere. As a man in a position of governmental authority, his comments on women’s bodies deserve all the criticism they are getting. This is not a case of a conservative voice going against the grain, but a majority opinion that needs to be checked. Beyond denouncing his archaic personal views, we need to take the attention away from him and towards steps to advocate criminalizing marital rape, and to stop traditional notions of marriage where women have fewer rights than men.