No To Rape strongly welcomes the remarks of Law Minister K Shanmugam and MP Vikram Nair, made in Parliament just over a week ago, regarding the possible abolition of marital immunity for rape. The Minister mentioned his meeting with No To Rape team members and described our goal as “worth looking into”.
Together with the repeal of Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act, this move would reflect a significant step towards ensuring that survivors of sexual violence are given the fair hearing that they deserve. Both measures would empower police, prosecutors and the courts to consider evidence of sexual violence on its own merits, rather than prejudicing the question by reference to the irrelevant sexual history of a complainant, such as whether she is married or had a prior sexual relationship with the accused.
We are also heartened by the strong positive response by members of the public to the Minister’s remarks. This is consistent with our experience over three years of working to end marital immunity for rape. We have received many messages of support from women and men of varying racial and religious backgrounds, including many who work in counselling and law. As survey results demonstrate, many in Singapore regard forced sex within marriage as an assault which should be taken seriously by the criminal law. The move discussed by the Minister is wholly in accord with society’s most fundamental shared values, which consider violence in any form and by any person to be severely unacceptable conduct.
Moreover, No To Rape applauds the call by Mr Abdul Mutalif Hashi, president of the Association for Devoted and Active Family Men, to educate men that “it is not right for husbands to demand sex”. We believe that no person, regardless of gender or marital relationship, has the right to demand sex from any other person. This belief is shared by many of our supporters, both women and men.
However, we believe that such education can and should be carried out in tandem with changes to the criminal law. As marriage guidance counsellor Osman Sidek has eloquently reasoned, even if marriage entails an obligation to have sex, this does not imply that there should be no limits on the action that a spouse can lawfully take to enforce this obligation. A husband who believes himself wrongfully deprived of sex should have recourse to counselling or the divorce courts, not to violence. The act of forcing an unwilling spouse to have sex is inherently violent and should be punishable under the Penal Code.
A warm thank you to MP Vikram Nair and the Law Minister for speaking up in favour of the full legal protection of all women against sexual violence. We call upon all persons of conscience, including MPs, Ministers, as well as members of the public, to give this move their fullest support