Marital rape can be a valid ground of divorce, Kerala High Court noted on Friday.

This judgment can have a significant impact on divorce cases.

The court observed this while dismissing an appeal of a man who had challenged a Family Court order that allowed a plea of his wife for divorce on the ground of cruelty.

The bench of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath said, “In this case, the insatiable urge for wealth and sex of the husband had forced the wife to take a decision for divorce. His licentious and profligate conduct cannot be considered as part of normal conjugal life.”

“Therefore, we have no difficulty in holding that insatiable urge for wealth and sex of a spouse would also amount to cruelty. The right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity encompasses bodily integrity, any disrespect or violation of bodily integrity is a violation of individual autonomy,” he said.

“Autonomy essentially refers to a state of feeling or condition one believes to possess having control over it,” the Court explained.

“In matrimony, the spouse possesses such privacy as an invaluable right inherent in him or her as an individual. Therefore, marital privacy is intimately and intrinsically connected to individual autonomy and any intrusion, physically or otherwise into such space would diminish privacy,” the branch added.

“This essentially would constitute cruelty. Merely for the reason that the law does not recognise marital rape under penal law, it does not inhibit the court from recognising the same as a form of cruelty to grant a divorce,” he said.

Court described that case as a “struggle of a woman” within the “clutches of law” and said that the woman was driven to distress.

“This case depicts a story of the struggle of a woman within the clutches of law to give primacy of choice not to suffer in the bondage of legal tie,” the court said.

“An insatiable urge for wealth and sex of a husband had driven a woman to distress. In desperation for obtaining a divorce, she has forsaken and abandoned all her monetary claims. Her cry for divorce has been prolonged in the temple of justice for more than a decade,” the bench said.

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