India Indian Women’s First Sexual Encounters Within Marriage Are Forced

Jan 1, 2010
Forced into early marriage or denied sexual and reproductive choices…. a large majority of women have yet to find their place in what is essentially a man’s world.

Empowered, really?

A quarter of young Indian women’s first sexual encounters within marriage are forced

It’s convenient to push ugly truths under the carpet and pretend everything is fine with the world. That has precisely been the case with women's empowerment in India. Few flashy vignettes of successful women here and there and we consider ourselves "redeemed" for good. But we do so at our own risk.

Consider this 50 per cent of the complaints the National Commission for Women (NCW) receives annually relate to instances of wife battering and desertions on account of dowry or adultery at the hands of local and NRI men. The rest of the lot comprises cases of crimes against women sexual assault leading the list followed by acid attacks. In most such instances, perpetrators have unleashed violence to get even with women who ignored their overtures.

These of course are extreme scenarios, where appropriate laws feels the NCW can undo some damage. That explains Chairperson Girija Vyas's clamour for the law to prevent sexual assault at workplace and another to alter the definition of assault to include child rape.

But inherent in the demand for a scheme to rehabilitate rape victims is the admission that rapes will happen. This admission is the starkest reflection of gender imbalances which still pervade our society.

Now for the first time, scientific evidence show how, after 63 years of freedom, gender inequalities continue to define man-woman relationships even in mundane spheres of life where divides are least expected.

Who would, for instance, believe that 50 per cent of young Indian women continue to get married before 18 years and four of every 10 girls don't know what the legal marriageable age is.. By contrast, just seven per cent young boys marry before 18. If that was less, while one in 10 boys consent to marrying the partner their parents choose for them, just one in four women do that.

This is happening in 21st century India, where young girls, a quarter of them, recently told researchers from the Indian Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai and Population Council, Delhi that their first sexual encounter within the marriage was forced. Over 33 per cent women in the age group 15 to 24 years admitted to have been forced to engage in sex by their husbands. Over half of young men and women (54 and 58 per cent respectively) justified wife beating when asked if the practice was acceptable.

These truths cut across urban and rural divides.

Even the Census 2011 results may not be encouraging on the gender equality front, with the first sub-national study on the aspirations and needs of young Indian men and women painting a gloomy picture. Evidence reiterates the reigning Indian obsession for sons, with a quarter of young men and women still preferring sons over daughters; just 3 to 5 per cent want daughters over sons.

So where have the policies from the National Population Policy 2000, the National Youth Policy 2003, the National Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy and the National Rural Health Mission 2005 led us ?

"Not far," says Usha Ram, a lead author of the study, conducted on 50, 848 male and female respondents (15 to 24 years) across six socially and geographically representative states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. The objective of the study was to determine key transitions experienced by the youth pertaining to sexual and reproductive activity, marriage and freedom and highlight gaps in this knowledge.

"Findings highlight young women's limited powers to negotiate. Only 27 per cent of them reported independent decision-making on issues like decision on choosing friends, spending money or purchasing clothes. Just a quarter of rural women reported the freedom to visit at least one place outside the village," says Shireen Jejeebhoy of the PCI.

From access and control of finances (only two in five young women own bank accounts and one in 10 operate it) to freedom of movement, women continue to report lack of equality. "More than two thirds of young men acknowledged they had more freedom to move out than their sisters," the findings suggest.

Most striking however is the lack of sexual and reproductive choices with young women. The majority said they never wanted their first pregnancy but had no access to information on how to end it or even the choice to end it. "This shows lack of women's power to engage on sexual matters. Use of contraceptives is acutely limited, with just 49 per cent young Indian women reporting accurate knowledge of non-terminal contraceptive methods such as a condom, an intrauterine device, oral or emergency contraceptives," researcher Ranjib Acharya points out.

Findings of considerable gender differences in comprehensive awareness about contraception and HIV/AIDS raise deep concerns about the vulnerability of girls, half of who have never had information on sexual matters all their lives. Dangers of this ignorance are particularly grave considering norms prohibiting pre-marital and opposite-sex mixing opportunities in India. Researchers have documented experiences of youngsters who have had sex before marriage without having any knowledge of sexual safety.

The challenge is to offer family life and sex education to youngsters and enable them to make informed choices.

As of now, youngsters are entering into relationships and marriages with minds full of misconceptions about sex, pregnancy and contraception. In 2007 when the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and the NCERT created a life-skills module for school educators, most state governments, primarily BJP-ruled, refused to offer it, saying it was "embarrassing".

The NACO revised the content to make it "decent". Yet, 11 states haven't cared to roll it. If embarrassment continues to be cited as an excuse to stifle knowledge, India can hardly expect to capitalise on its demographic dividend or stabilise its population by pinning the fertility rate down at 2.1.

The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Opinions


Sexual/Reproductive Rights

Only 45 per cent girls know they can get pregnant at first sexual encounter; 28 per cent know about HIV

Contraceptive knowledge and use reported by just 46 per cent girls

Male vasectomy accounts for only 4 per cent of all sterilisation cases in India

69 per cent young men but 84 per cent young women expect parental disapproval if they bring opposite sex friends home

A quarter of girls and boys have seen their fathers beating up mothers

Over 50 per cent girls, boys say wife-beating is fine

Gender attitudes

Women have lesser freedom of movement than men

Even the least educated and poorest boys have more decision making powers than the most educated and wealthiest girls

Four in 10 women don't know that the legal marriageable age is 18 years

Based on the findings of a study by the Indian Institute of Population Studies, Mumbai, and the Population Council, Delhi


  • oped1.jpg
    22.6 KB · Reads: 184
Last edited by a moderator:


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Randip Singh ji

I agree. And the fact that this problem is rampant, intractable, and centuries old makes it all the more a fit topic for worldwide attention. Congratz to India for putting it on the national agenda. For forming a National Commission to Study all forms of violence against women.

This topic and related topics can be found almost every day in the major newspapers in india, The Hindu to name only one. It is becoming a recognized public priority.

The commission that has been formed is an important first step. Sadly, its work is being second-guessed all over the place.
Jan 1, 2010
Narayanjot Kaurji & Randeep Singh ji,
The basic reasons of enhancement in sexual activities are availability of Porn sites. If we go for the studies then porn sites are the maximum times those are viewed. Now the situation is that 25% of men and 12% of women admit to having viewed porn at work. If we consider that the employees accessing pornography from their government computers. The number is increasing day by day. No prosecutions have been made so far. If the employees used to view the Porn sites during their job hours and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected, then to whom we blame. The explanations in the matter has never been sought by the higher officials to their staff. Now consider the cost of porn surfing during duty hours and the impact it gives to the society.
Narayanjot kaurji,
Now I come to the point and I agree to you. You will also consider and will admit that this problem is also a rampant problem. You talk to any Govt employee he/she will admit that the Porn site is being viewed during office hours. If the problem is becoming acute then what is the solution to it. India though put the topic on national agenda but if a common man knows that this is the root cause of violence against women. Due to this problem women are highly exploited in offices. This problem has never been highlighted in newspapers or in media. Though the Govt should send circulars to the offices that anybody found in viewing the Porn site during office hour then stringent actions will be taken against him/her. The National Commission For Women should also highlight this problem. The Social Networking sites can play remarkable roles to guide the young generation regarding this fast generating problem.
Rajneesh madhok