The Legal Rapist is a spoken word poem by 16 year old Simar Singh tackling the horror of marital rape.
In a country where marital rape isn’t legitimized because it attacks the “sacrament of marriage”, we need more conversations about the pervasiveness of rape, especially within the family, and especially between husband and wife.
Simar adopts the voice of a woman in love with her husband, who is initially depicted as having internalized many gender roles expected of women, like being a homemaker. The wife, voiced by Simar, initially defends her decision to stay at home, saying that it was a mutually agreed choice, and [rightly] says that her work is not any less than that of her husband’s – it is just that she is not paid for it. However, by the end of the video she realizes that the spectre of “choice” was a hollow one, and it was her husband’s decision all along that she would stay at home.
But the tone of the poem quickly turns darker. From a wife happily defending her decision to be a homemaker, Simar’s character quickly turns disillusioned with the “love” of her husband when he forces himself upon her to have sex despite her repeated claims of being in pain due to her periods.
Her confusion and betrayal finds coherence when she learns the term ‘marital rape’, which frees her from the oppressive burden of societal rules that she had been taught – that “sex is the woman’s duty”, that “a woman’s yes or no didn’t matter”, and that there was no such thing as consent. “I really wanted to drive home the point about how the husband’s flippant refusal to make his wife chai carries so much more weight and legitimacy than the wife’s earnest refusal to have sex,” says Simar, the poet.
Simar’s poem articulates exactly why we need to talk about these things. It is so important raise awareness about the necessity of consent even inside a marriage. The expectations of guaranteed sex within a marriage are so deeply rooted that even women often fail to question them (and much less men, of course).
The Legal Rapist was written by the young poet at a poetry competition, and then later fine-tuned when he did more research on marital rape and domestic abuse. While the content of the piece did not change too vastly, Simar feels that the intensity of his performance did. “When you truly read about the atrocities of domestic abuse, it is hard not to be angry.”
Simar’s poem tackles multiple issues, from the hollowness of the “choice” that’s often presented to women in terms of choosing to stay at home over picking careers, to the dismissal of house work as “real work”, to the entitlement of sex within a marriage, to the continued decriminalization of marital rape in our country. Kudos to Simar Singh!