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Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Women with disabilities and minor wives

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

MCYS has put out a press release which includes details of the National Family Violence Symposium held on Wednesday. One presentation makes particular reference to the position of people with disabilities in the United States (emphases ours):

Studies have long established that people with developmental or other disabilities are disproportionately victimized in the United States. One study found that among adults with developmental disabilities, as many as 83% of females and 32% of males are the victims of sexual assault. Perhaps most astonishingly, 97%-99% of abusers are known and trusted by these victims. Victimization rates for persons with disabilities is highest for sexual assault (more than 10 times as high) and robbery (more than 12 times as high).

There are a number of factors related to the susceptibility to abuse for individuals with disabilities. In addition, there are many existing significant barriers, both real and perceived, that affect vulnerable adults and their interaction with the criminal justice system. These barriers include societal perception of disability, use of appropriate language and current realities for adults and children with disabilities.

Under the Penal Code at the moment, marital rape is excluded from the definition of rape unless the victim had taken certain legal steps, including for example applying for a personal protection order, prior to the assault.

One of the arguments set out in our Petition is that the requirement of making applications for orders, injunctions etc. may be especially difficult to fulfil for minor wives and/or women with disabilities with abusive husbands who are adult and/or able-bodied. Such girls and women are likely to be in a position of dependence – economic, or physical, or both – which makes it much harder for them to cross the extra hurdles put in place before they can seek the protection of the criminal law.

We hope that MCYS and the government will pay close attention to the implications of the presentation for the Penal Code. The situation in the United States may not be directly comparable to the situation in Singapore. But if women with disabilities are especially likely to suffer sexual violence within the home, it becomes even more important that marital immunity for rape be completely abolished.

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