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What is at stake

No To Rape does not agree that marriage entails a moral obligation to be sexually available to one’s spouse at all times. But immunity for marital rape is unjustifiable even if we are wrong about that. Whatever disputes a married couple has – including over sex – rape is an act of violence which no circumstances can justify or excuse. Even if someone is 100% at fault in a disagreement, society should not allow the other person to rape them. Everyone should be protected from violence.

However frustrated someone may be if their spouse’s sexual inclinations do not match their own, they always have a choice about how to respond. A husband who is dissatisfied can talk things through. He can seek professional counselling. He can be less than constructive without ever committing violence against anyone: he can smash a dish, he can ignore his wife, he can make malicious remarks. The law doesn’t intervene in such behaviour.

As long as he doesn’t choose to commit rape, he won’t become a rapist.

What’s at stake here is what society does when someone chooses – out of all the many options for how they can respond to a situation – to violently hurt their spouse in one of the most distressing and disabling ways possible.

This is the reality of what we are dealing with. In the case of Public Prosecutor v N (facts here) a man threatened to kill his wife if she divorced him. He slapped her, tied and gagged her and then raped her. He was charged for the threat to kill her, for slapping her, and for tying and gagging her, but marital immunity meant that a charge could not be brought for the most serious act: that of rape.

The 10th anniversary of the case looms (it was decided in October 1999). Slapping, tying, gagging, threatening – all these are recognised, and punished, as violence. The pain, intrusion and humiliation of rape is erased. The law looks an act of violence straight in the face and denies that any wrong was done.

What is at stake is whether we acknowledge experiences like those of this signatory, and whether we openly and firmly declare our censure of it – or whether we demand that she and those like her never speak:

I was a victim of this crime when my husband at that time hit me and then demanded sex. All I could do was cry and submit and then forever remain silent.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 4:04 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “What is at stake”

  1. [...] Marital rape happens. Signatories on the No To Rape petition have spoken of their personal experiences as victims, or their work with [...]

  2. [...] Rape petition are inspiring, moving and thought-provoking. So far we have tended to highlight the words of those with first hand experience of abuse, or those who have worked with victims. But we receive [...]

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