Although incidents of rape are reported in most newspapers, they are often down-played. If we glance at the available statistics, compiled by a reputed Lahore based Aurat Foundation’s report of 2014, it states that in just seven years (2008 to 2014), a total of 6754 rape cases were registered in the country. The report notices that in 2008, 778 such cases were reported, which jumped to two-fold in 2014. Although, there are many other types of abuses and violence against women, rape is graver in nature with lasting psychological and physical repercussions. The victim lives with this trauma for the rest of her life. The matter becomes more acute when the convict manages to escape punishment while on the other hand the victim faces a stigma, on which she has no control. To make matters worse, the traditional patriarchal orthodox Pakistani society overtly provides a safe passage to the male perpetrator. It’s only in recent years that minor child’s rape, especially girls is being highlighted in the media and social forums.

Not so surprising, in print and electronic media, there is absolutely no mention of rape within the realm of marriage, commonly known as ‘Marital Rape’. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) define marital rape as a non-consensual sexual activity by a spouse or ex-spouse or by a former or current partner. Though marital rape is recognized in international law as a crime but in patriarchal conservative society like Pakistan, recognition of forceful relations within marriage, may it be physical, emotional or under any other pretext, is a taboo. There can be many reasons cited for such over-look, which at times are deliberate. First, may be because of the fact that other atrocities against women in shape of domestic abuse, acid throwing and honour killing are rampant in a way that this dimension of marital abuse hardly becomes a matter of attention. Secondly, in Pakistani society the “sanctity” of marriage is constructed in a manner that any abuse of this nature is considered acceptable.

Section 375 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) defines rape as non-consensual sexual act with any female. Women’s Protection Act 2006 was the first time that non-consensual sex was given a wider meaning that included marital rape- a broad base definition from previous understanding. A unique feature of this development was that it applied on even those realms of women which was and still considered a taboo. On the other hand, the social values and cultural norms hardly recognize non-consensual sex within marriage a rape. Thus, the legal restriction could hardly become effective, as other law enforcement agencies (Police) and law interpretive bodies (judiciary) being a product of this culture, neither are ready, nor are sensitized about this important aspect of women’s right.

Before investigating this subject still further, it becomes important to highlight its originality. First, we need to understand that in Pakistani patriarchal society, the man considers to be the sole judge and arbitrator of any activity that relates to a woman, in this case his wife. To demonstrate our view, we notice that the abuses and foul language is exclusively targeted towards women’s sexuality and her body, expressing humiliation and insult for the female anatomy. Similarly, rape is also committed largely to humiliate or to exert dominance over a female. This translation of act itself makes it clear that in most of the cases, either within or outside marriage, rape aims to attain certain objectives of various natures. Thus, we are reluctant to discuss without reservations, the kinds and types of sexual assault in various situations.

There are numerous reasons of unchecked and unnoticed marital rape. First patriarchal society accepts that in marriage a man dictates all rules and types of relationship, while a wife remains a mere spectator. Such kind of male dominance is influenced by socio-cultural norms and reinforced, under the miss-interpreted religious texts. Second, in patriarchal society male considers to have monopoly over all the faculties in his control, whereas female partner is nothing more than a second fiddle. If she attempts to follow her instinct or principals, she is considered as rude or unreasonable. In this setting, the society, as a whole always finds a fault with a woman. In this context, the marital rape is hardly recognized in the first place. Thus the reporting ratio is zero. This is despite of the fact that a related law against rape, including that of marital prevails.

While concluding, it can be assessed that since childhood, gender related sensitivities of a male child are ignored, whereas the whole focus remains on a female child’s behavior, actions and reactions. The female child since early age is being taught to be submissive and obedient. This element of female compliance is adamantly transferred in marital relations. Such exclusiveness of sensitivity towards women within the family structure often create imbalanced gender relations as men are conditioned to rule, whereas women are taught to obey. Such discriminatory conditioning reflects in gender bias and at times abuses against women. The balanced gender relations in society can only be attained when both male and female are equally trained with un-biased values to deal with matters of mutual interests. Thus Pakistani society needs a paradigm shift where gender relations are structured equally to achieve social equilibrium.