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Welcome change to Evidence Act

No To Rape strongly welcomes the decision announced by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam, to repeal Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act. This provision states that in legal proceedings “when a man is prosecuted for rape [...] it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character” in order to impeach the credibility of the rape complainant. (See previous AWARE article on this issue here).

The Minister stated the reasons for the repeal at the recent official launch of AWARE’s Sexual Assault Befrienders Service, an important specialised service providing support to those who have experienced sexual assault. He described his consultation with civic groups including No To Rape and AWARE on the matter of rape complaint procedures, and pointed out that Section 157(d) rests on two “antediluvian and repugnant” “myths” which “should [not] find any expression in our laws”. Namely, that:

a) a woman who is sexually experienced is less credible as a witness; and
b) a woman who is sexually experienced is more likely to have consented to sexual activity.

The Minister went on to state:

The approach we should take to this, whether it is a man or a woman – matters relating sexual history, just like a man who has been previously accused, whether that should or should not be taken into account – sexual history of either party can only be taken into account if it is relevant for that particular case. So, we really ought to leave it to the courts. Neither should we say it is completely irrelevant. It really depends on the facts, and it cannot just be the woman. That must be the right approach.

Like all other evidence, matters relating to a victim’s sexual history must satisfy the threshold of relevance before they can be introduced, rather than as dictated by Section 157(d).

No To Rape welcomes this as an improvement over the status quo, although we believe further consideration should be given to the possibility that the sexual history of the complainant will never satisfy a rational threshold of relevance, and should therefore be considered inadmissible in all cases.

In addition to this, however, No To Rape believes that the logic articulated by the Minister also requires the abolition of marital immunity for rape. Under the Penal Code as it stands, in the absence of proceedings for divorce, separation, an injunction or a personal protection order, the existence of a marital relationship is not only considered automatically relevant to rape cases. It goes a step further, to automatically determine the result: there can be no conviction. The individual facts of the case cannot be considered by the court under a rape charge, even if there is clear evidence of (for example) accompanying violence, leading to injury, or forms of physical restraint, or corroborative third party testimony, that would point strongly toward a finding of non-consent to sexual intercourse.

No To Rape congratulates the Ministry on the decision regarding the Evidence Act, and urges it to build upon this progress by also repealing Sections 375(4) and 376A(5) of the Penal Code.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 27th, 2011 at 6:37 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.

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