Musical play ‘Pinjra’ digs deep at the underlying hypocrisy surrounding marital-rape case in India
Since the late 20th century, most of the developed world has criminalized marital rape, but the existing laws in India still have a very narrow purview. Recently, Home Affairs minister Haribhai Chaudhary said that marital rape can’t be made a criminal offence in India because of high illiteracy rate, poverty, extreme religious beliefs and the very ‘sanctity’ of marriage. To address this very important social issue, Saitan Theatre Group is presenting a Hindi-musical play titled ‘Pinjra’ that narrates the tale of two women Siya and Jaanki who lived in different eras but have experienced the same ordeal, which resembles the real-life situation of many women today.
Speaking about the theme of the play, Ms. Namita Verma, co-founder of Saitan Theatre Group, said, “Women have been subjected to many atrocities from time immemorial ,and even today they live with the pain of being handcuffed by social obligations rooted deep in our history. Marital rape is one such pain of suffering a dreadful double jeopardy. Our play deals with two evils that women have suffered over the years- Sati Pratha and Marital Rape. While Sati has been abolished, Marital Rape is still a very real problem with studies indicating that almost 10-14% of married women are raped by their husbands and the incidents of marital rape have soars from 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women. Our endeavor is to show what these women go through and hope our laws are amended to make sure that no woman should ever have to experience this in her married life.”
Currently, the law states that an offence of rape within marital bonds stands only if the wife be less than 12 years of age. Once, the age crosses 16, there is no legal protection accorded to the wife, in direct contravention of human rights regulations.
The Founder and Director of Saitan Theatre Group, Mr. Rajneesh Gautam said, “We chose this subject because it is happening around us and we are still showing ignorance. Sexual assault by one’s spouse accounts for approximately 25% of rapes committed. While the Indian society is known for its civilization and culture, there rest some pertinent questions related to the life of women, specially married women, who are left ignored, portraying the resilient suffering of women choked in four-deaf-walls or even back in the history. We are against this kind of approach and that is why we conceptualized this play. We have a lot of wolves in the street but sometimes they live inside our house under sheep’s skin.”
The play portrays the story of Siya, who is forced to commit Sati in the mid-19th century, two years after the Sati practice was banned in India, and the life of Jaanki, who finds herself trapped in between the lines of subtlety, romance and love. Her relationship with her husband is more of physical and sexual abuse, far from the eternal bliss and bloom of the vows she took as the very steps of her life with him. This brings us to the question of whether marriage in India is a contract for legal sex, among other things – where a man doesn’t need to ask for permission and is free to impose himself on the wife? It is to be seen if they are able to break free from their respective cages.
Why isn’t marital rape a criminal offence in India? Should there be two yardsticks to define rape – rape of an unmarried woman and that of a married woman? Is it acceptable to discriminate a woman just because she is married to the man who raped her? These questions remain to be answered.
Watch ‘Pinjra’ on 12th September at 7 PM at The Akshara Theatre, Delhi.