No to rape: Towards Criminalising Marital Rape
I was privilleged to be at the No To Rape :Towards Criminalising Marital Rape seminar yesterday evening. http://www.notorape.com/Seminar/ (abstracts available) (See also http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking+News/Singapore/Story/STIStory_405235.html )
Some of the points that struck me, listening to the speakers, ( in addition to my previous discussion here: http://mathialee.wordpress.com/2009/07/05/why-is-it-illegal-to-beat-your-wife-but-legal-to-rape-her/). The following is reported as I have heard it. I may have heard wrongly or misunderstood certain points, so all error is mine. I’ll appreciate it a lot if you do point out errors.
- Marital rape doesn’t happen in isolation; it almost always is part of a violent and abusive relationship. Without the criminalisation of marital rape, the abuser can only be punished for incidental crimes, but not the actual crime of rape. Thus currently, the abuser can already be punished when he rapes his wife under a different charge — what will be affected is the EXTENT of the punishement ( Benny Bong, Chan Wing Cheong).
- How will criminalising marital rape weaken family bonds, when what this law criminalises is violence, hurt and abuse, the very antithesis of family bonds? (Benny Bong)
- If a husband forces his wife to perform oral/other sex acts on him, or forcefully performs those acts on her, he can be punishd for it. It is only with penile-vaginal rape that marriage grants him immunity. (Chan Wing Cheong)
- The govt gives this reason for granting immunity from the charge of rape within marriage : that it will change the nature of the marriage relationship.
Yes it will. But that would be a change for the better : one which recognises that a woman is still a human being with the capability and right to decide who and when she wants to have sex with. (Chan Wing Cheong)
- Possible ways of criminalising marital rape (Chan Wing Cheong) :
a) treating marriage as irrelavent where rape is concerned (Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Phillipines, HK, NZ, Australia, UK)
b)treating marital rape as a different criminal offense with a different nme (Malaysia, India) (http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ap/20090806/tap-as-malaysia-marital-rape-2nd-ld-writ-b3c65ae.html ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3592740.stm)
c) extend the scope of the present exceptions to marital rape immunity
- Currently the marital rape law stipulates that the woman must not be living with the husband and proceedings must have been initiated for seperation/divorce or formal court/police ordes have been obtained. Given the circumstances of housing in Singapore, the woman might already be in the process of getting a divorce but still in the same house as the man, because alternative housing is not yet available to her. Or in a different scenario, the wife may already have moved out but has not yet initiated formal proceedings. In these 2 scenarios, marital rape is not recognised, even though, in principle, it has the same characteristics as what the current law allows for marital rape to be criminal. The scope of the present exceptions to marital rape immunity should at least be extended to these scenarios. (Braema Mathi)
- Even if few women would be willing to charge their husbands under this law, the law serves its function as a signal of what society recognises as acceptable behavior (Siew Kum Hong)
- To those who want to preserve the institution of marriage : Do we want to preserve marriage at all costs for the sake of the institution itself? Do we want to preserve marriage in both its good forms, as well as the bad, abusive forms? Or do we want to preserve marriage only in it good forms, which is the what the institution of marriage is all about to begin with — love? (Siew Kum Hong)
Additionally, I raised the following point during the floor discussion:
There are women who know that their husbands are having extramarital affairs / paying for sex. Yet because they are made to belief marital sex is their obligation, they put themselves at risk for HIV and other STIs. In Singapore, the majority of women with HIV/STIs are infected by their husbands. With the law in place, we have the legitimacy to educate these women that, even in a marriage, you have the right to say NO, or the right to insist on condom use or no sex. When the State signals that sex is obligatory through the provision of marital rape immunity, it reinforces womens’ beliefs that they must say Yes, at the expense of their health.
There are some who believe that there are religious grounds for supporting this marital rape immunity. In the course of preparing for the No T0 Rape campaign, Rev David Burke ( Pastor at the Orchard Rd Pres Ch; also lecturer at several theological seminaries training future pastors of the Protestant church here) gave the following comments to our questions (his answers in CAPS):
A man forces sexual intercourse upon a woman who did not consent to having sex at the time. According to your faith, is this a form of wrongdoing by the man? Please explain why
YES IT IS WRONG.
ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUALLY CREATED IN GOD’S EYES (Gen 1:2-27). THE WOMAN’S INTEGRITY AND WILL ARE TO BE RESPECTED. AND SO RAPE IS A SIN (Deut 22:25)
A man forces sexual intercourse upon a woman, who is his wife. She did not consent to having sex at the time. According to your faith, is this a form of wrongdoing by the man? Please explain why.
YES THIS IS WRONG.
THE APOSTLE PAUL TEACHES THAT HUSBANDS AND WIVES ARE TO TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT AND MUTUALITY (Eph 5:21)AND THAT THE HUSBAND IS TO EXERCISE A SACRIFICIAL AND LOVING SERVANT LEADERSHIP TOWARDS HIS WIFE (Eph 5:25-28). FORCING HER TO HAVE SEX, (WHETHER PHYSICAL, VERBAL OR EMOTIONAL FORCE) IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THIS. THE COMPLEMENTARY VALUE TO THIS IS THAT HUSBAND AND WIFE ARE BOTH TO RESPECT THE NEEDS AND DESIRES OF EACH OTHER AND NOT TO WITHHOLD INTERCOURSE EXCEPT IN MUTUALLY AGREED AND TIME-LIMITED CIRCUMSTANCES (1 Cor 7:2-5). iIF CHRISTIAN HUSBANDS AND WIVES ARE LIVING BY THESE TEACHINGS THE QUESTION OF RAPE IN MARRIAGE WILL NOT ARISE AS THEY WILL EACH RESPECT AND SERVE THE OTHER IN LOVE AND MUTUAL SUBMISSION .
If the answers to 2) and 3) are “yes”, according to your faith, are both forms of wrongdoing equally wrongful? Please explain why.
I SEE BOTH AS SEVERE FORMS OF WRONGDOING THAT ARE SINS AGAINST GOD AND A HARM TO THE WOMAN INVOLVED. BOTH VIOLATE THE WOMAN AND BOTH INVOLVE THE USE OF FORCE TO INFLICT THE MAN’S SELFISH DESIRES IN A MOST PERSONAL AREA. NEITHER IS COMPATIBLE WITH THE CHRISTIAN FAITH.
We are campaigning for the Code to be changed, so that marital rape and other forms of rape are treated in the same way under the law. Would the teachings of your faith support this change? Please explain why.
YES. I WOULD ARGUE THAT RESPECT FOR THE WILL OF AN INDIVIDUAL IS A UNIVERSAL VALUE ARISING FROM OUR COMMON CREATION IN GOD’S IMAGE. AND NOT A DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN ISSUE. & THUS THAT IT IS RIGHT THAT THE STATE PROTECT POTENTIALLY VULNERABLE WOMEN FROM SUCH VIOLENCE.
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