Phulmoni Dasi, a nine-year-old Indian girl, had died on the first night after her marriage with 30-year-old Hari Mohan Mait in 1889. India remembers that incident of the colonial British period as The Phulmoni Dasi Rape Case! Perhaps the first rape case in Indias was this. Child marriage and subsequent marital rape resulted in the death of Phulmoni, and the case led to the conviction of the husband in 1890, apart from triggering several legal reforms.
9 January 1891, the Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne presented a bill before the Council of India, which was then headed by Andrew Scoble, called the “Age of Consent”. It amended Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. Previously, the age of consent had been set at 10 in 1860. After the bill was passed on 29 March 1891, Section 376 included sex with a girl under 12 even if the person is the wife of the perpetrator, as rape.
Marital rape in India
Marital rape is a form of abuse that is not recognized as a specific crime under Indian statutes, despite it being a long-standing demand of the women’s movement.
While most of the developed world has penalized marital rape, surprisingly, there is no law to protect married women against marital rape in India. Many of the highly educated people think that marital rape is nothing but the best way to end the domestic quarrel over some issue. The husband thought that the body of his wife is only dedicated to him and he can play with it on his own. Her vagina is a great place for pleasure. Her breasts are like the best things to grab.
But that’s actually the worst conception. That day when Phulmoni was raped and was forced to breathe her last on the so-called, “Suhaagraat”, she was just 9 years old. She actually had no idea of marriage, rather say she had no idea about her own body also. She hadn’t watched her menses or felt the menstruation. And that little girl had no idea about sex.
Perhaps if you’re marrying someone you both should need consent from each other for intimacy. But that time when hardly two or three women in whole society were struggling to build their career then this kind of issue may seem like an incident but in a broader sense, it’s an accident. It’s not an accident it’s a crime at that time. The little girl was brutally killed by her husband without knowing of murder.
Perhaps from then the council of government took their decision just to save the girls. Girls are not at all the piece of bloody flesh. They also have their own identity. And also that they can fight back was so necessary at that time. Phulmoni Dasi rape case being the first-ever rape case in India is thus so much important to study the history of rape cases and also the history of rape punishments in India.
Snigdhadeb Guha | MSIT Kolkata