Before the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act of 2006, the definition of rape under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code (Rape) stated that “A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman, who is not his wife….” The 2006 Amendment expressly removed the words ‘who is not his wife’ to include marital rape within the domain of the offence of rape.
This significant amendment marked a crucial step towards addressing the issue of marital rape in Pakistan. While there is no separate legal provision specifically addressing marital rape, the Pakistani law under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code clearly states that a husband can be charged with the rape of his wife.
This legal provision emphasizes that spousal relations do not grant automatic consent and that a wife has the right to file a criminal complaint against her husband for rape. The law does not provide any exception for a husband in allegations of rape, reinforcing the notion that marital rape is a recognized offense under the Pakistani legal framework.
In rape cases, consent plays a pivotal role. The law defines consent as “an unequivocal voluntary agreement of a person by words, gestures, or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, which communicates willingness to participate in the specific sexual act.” It is important to note that the absence of physical resistance does not imply consent to the sexual activity. The law recognizes that consent must be actively and clearly communicated, and the lack of resistance alone cannot be taken as an indication of consent.
While the recognition of marital rape as a crime in Pakistan is a step forward, there is still much work to be done in terms of awareness, education, and support for survivors. Addressing the issue of marital rape requires not only legal reforms but also societal change, where consent, respect, and autonomy within marriage are promoted and upheld. It is essential to create an environment that empowers individuals to speak out against any form of sexual violence and ensures that survivors of marital rape receive the support and justice they deserve.