In a week when both the government of India and the Supreme Court of India reiterated that they are not going to relitigate the criminality of marital rape, it is useful to see how prevalent the act is. According to a nationally representative household survey of women, just 2.3% of the sexual violence experienced by women in India was by men other than their husbands.
Researcher and doctoral student Aashish Gupta analysed data from the 2005-06 round of the National Family Health Survey (more recent data on this is not available) and found that 6.6% of women--or 66 of every 1,000 women--said that they had experienced sexual violence perpetrated by their husbands. In comparison, 0.16% of women (or 1.6 out of every 1,000 women) said that they had experienced sexual violence by men other than their husbands. In all, sexual violence outside the marriage comprised a small fraction (2.3%) of all sexual violence experienced by women.
The NFHS is a nationally representative household survey which asked women respondents about their experience of physical and sexual violence for this particular question.
Smaller studies have found even higher rates of marital rape. A 2014 ICRW-UNFPA study in seven large Indian states found that a third of men (31%) admitted to having perpetrated sexual violence on their partners, and a fifth of women (17%) admitted to having experienced it (potentially indicating that women under-report the experience of sexual violence even in household surveys).
Using internationally accepted household surveys, UN Women compared the prevalence of intimate partner violence across countries. The data shows that the prevalence of sexual violence by an intimate partner is higher in India than in most developed countries, but lower than in most African and Asian nations.
In the case of both marital and non-marital rapes, the share of incidents that got reported to the police was extremely low, Gupta found. Comparing the NFHS data with National Crime Records Bureau data for 2005, he found that just 5.8% of rapes by men other than the woman's husband were reported to the police, and just 0.6% of rapes by the husband. Since marital rape is not recognised as a crime in India, it was probably reported as "cruelty".