Marital rape in Pakistan- Legal situation

How hard could it be to understand rape? Rape is simply an act of sexual intercourse with a person without her/his consent, and that’s all. No ifs and no buts. Can a person be raped by a person he/she is married to? Yes, it is possible.

Sexual intercourse with the spouse without consent is marital rape. Some people believe that the law of Pakistan does not recognise marital rape. The good news is that they are wrong, materially, and the bad news is that they are right, constructively. The Pakistan Penal Code, in section 375, provides the comprehensive definition of rape:

  1. Rape:- A man is said to commit rape who has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the five following descriptions,

(i)   against her will.

(ii)  without her consent

(iii) with her consent, when the consent has been obtained by putting her in fear of death or of hurt,

(iv) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not married to her and that the consent is given because she believes that the man is another person to whom she is or believes herself to be married; or

(v)  With or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age.

Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

The law very clearly says that the woman against whom the rape is being committed can be any woman. There is no saving that the sexual intercourse under subsection (i) and (ii), which is against her will or consent, with a person’s own wife shall not be considered rape. Rape is the greatest crime against humanity and, in my opinion, marital rape is even more severe in its gravity because it is committed by a man whom the woman trusts so much that most of the times she considers him to be her last resort.

Unfortunately, our society has not evolved to the level where we could talk about the crime of rape openly and marital rape is even a bigger taboo to be talked about. In most of the cases, even the woman’s family will give her a shut-up call if she informs them that her husband has raped her; it would seem to be so vague to them that they might even laugh at her which would be even more traumatic. So constructively, we are not grown enough to take it a crime.

Till now, there has been no case of marital rape registered in Pakistan. Although there are cases where the wife had lodged a criminal case against her husband for putting her to sodomy, but that crime is technically different from marital rape. Even where such cases of sodomy with wife were registered, the women had to face so deadly social pressure that they had to back out from it.

Section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code gives the ultimate punishment for rape which, if ever staged, can be a good chunk of justice for the rapist. It goes as under:

376.Punishment for Rape (1)Whoever commits rape shall be punished with death or imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten rears or more, than twenty-five years and shall also be liable to fine.

(2)  When rape is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.”.

Only because the rapists are not hanged of and on, they are being encouraged and there is no question of hanging the marital rapist as it looks to be a song of the land far away. But at the same time, there is a material problem with the law itself: The law provides only for the rape against woman which means that the rape against man is not even considered rape by our law, it shows that we are still under evolution. Darwin was right!

Ahmad Bilal

Ahmad Bilal

The author is a practising lawyer at Lahore High Court with expertise in corporate and constitutional matters. He can be reached at