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The conundrum of Matrimonial Issues: Is Right to equality turning Opaque

Contention via Introduction

The right to life has been established as a fundamental right by the law of the land, and the meaning of life has been structured by the courts. Following Article 21 of the Indian Constitution:
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except in accordance with the procedure established by law.

Courts have ruled that the term life does not simply refer to the provision of sustenance, but also includes such concepts as dignity, freedom, privacy, and so on. A meaningful life necessitates the enjoyment of one's privacy.

The term privacy is not defined in the Constitution and is subject to judicial interpretation, which has resulted in it being recognized as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. Physical non-interference, bodily integrity, psychological freedom, and confidentiality are all examples of privacy rights. The courts in R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu and People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India interpreted privacy as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, and as such, privacy is a right to be alone or a state of non-interference without any justification by anyone. When this individual right comes into conflict with the rights of an institution such as marriage, however, there is a question that needs to be addressed. The legislators and interpreters have attempted to strike a balance between the two sides.

Legal Aspects of Confidentiality in Marriage

Marriage is a union of love and trust between two people. The partners have certain inherent rights under this institution, but there are instances in which this social and legal entity infringes on the privacy of the partners, and the courts are obligated to investigate the situation to determine whether or not the encroachment is valid.

As in Rajalakshmi M. Bhuvaneshwari v. Nagaphomendar Rayala, the husband demanded the telephone conversations between himself and his wife with another man to prove her illegal relationship with that man, which the wife refused to provide. Because it would be a violation of her right to privacy, the court ruled that neither the husband nor the boyfriend could demand such a thing, nor could he tap her phone because marriage does not grant an unreasonable privilege to do so.

In Sharda v Dharmpal, the court held that the right to privacy is subject to certain limitations, and as a result, in this divorce proceeding, the court held that it is necessary to submit reports of medical treatment if the information is relevant to the case and does not constitute a violation of the spouse's right to privacy under Article 21.

In the case of Surjit Singh Thind v. Kanwaljit Kaur, the husband sought to present the results of his wife's virginity test because she was requesting a divorce as he was impotent. It was decided that asking a woman to give her virginity test was a violation of her right to life with dignity as well as her right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and that the court should reject the husband's demand. As a result, while the court has up to this point protected the realms of privacy within the marriage institution, certain aspects of female rights continue to be neglected. India has not yet criminalized marital rape, and this violation of her sexual sovereignty continues to be perpetrated.

Right to privacy vis-a -vis women's sexual rights?

In situations where the legal marriage doctrine, which emphasizes the moral purpose of marriage as a duty, as well as the right to sexual privileges, comes into conflict with an individual's sexual sovereignty, which one should take precedence? The patriarchal system of India accords men with a higher social status than women. The law philosophers believe that marriage unites two individuals into a single unit and that the rights of this marital unit take precedence over the rights of the individual partners. Male sexual authority simply robs his wife of her sexual privacy by his position of superior sexual authority.

Even though the constitution recognizes privacy and liberty as fundamental rights of every individual, when it comes to marriage, the woman's claim is essentially dead in the water. As a result, the legal rights of a woman are placed in opposition to the legally protected rights of a husband over his wife's body.

Marital rape is a horrifying crime that is still not considered a criminal offense in India. A woman's status as a slave is reduced to that of a slave who has no rights over anything other than her own body by her marriage. She is required to submit to her husband's sexual demands, regardless of her desires or the freedom to say no to them. In India, rape is considered a criminal offense. As a result, if the perpetrator is the husband, he is simply absolved of any wrongdoing.

Following societal expectations of marriage, a man has complete authority over his wife. The wife loses her legal existence, which also entails the loss of her legal rights of independence, which are taken over by the husband and treated as his own. The obligation to cohabitate is an absolute submission of women's consent and liberty, but no law in India ever challenges this submission as being unfair.

If marital rape is made a criminal offense in India, legal philosophers argue that the law is likely to be abused by many, but that mere abuse of the law cannot be used as a bargaining chip for the complete absence of the law. Even though proving a marital rape in court would be extremely difficult, the law of the land must be changed to make marital rape a criminal offense to protect women's sexual sovereignty. Because the state has a legal obligation to protect the rights accorded to each citizen, any form of violence against women constitutes a failure to fulfil this obligation. Sexual abuse is a violation of a woman's fundamental rights, and the fact that the offender's identity is known does not exempt the abuse from being prosecuted as a crime.

It is a well-known proverb that a man's house is his castle, but now it is necessary to consider a wife's body as her castle, and she must be given the authority to protect it. It is necessary to recognize sexual privacy or the right to bodily integrity as a subset of fundamental rights because every individual has the right to live with dignity, which includes the right to physical integrity.

By not including marital rape as a crime, the government is taking an evangelical approach to protecting the matrimonial bond, which violates women's right to life. The law of the land must grant equal sexual rights to all women and make marital rape a criminal offense because it violates a woman's bodily integrity and privacy, as well as her desire to engage in sexual activity.

Written By: Ashish Dash, 2nd year Law student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

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