Singapore is a party to the Convention On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty, and as a result the state regularly reports to the United Nations CEDAW Committee. This happened most recently in July 2011. Various NGOs including AWARE also submitted shadow reports to the Committee. AWARE’s report includes the following references to marital rape and No To Rape:
19.23 Singapore’s Fourth Periodic Review to CEDAW 2008 highlights the amendment to the Penal Code that has criminalized forced sex on a spouse under certain circumstances, e.g. in cases where a Personal Protection Order (PPO) was issued against the offending spouse. While a step in the right direction, it is submitted that this does not go far enough. In fact, the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Comments voiced some concern for the recognition of marital rape as a crime in such ‘narrowly defined circumstances’.
19.24 AWARE, in its previous shadow report discussed this discriminatory provision that denies all married women full recourse for the criminal offence of rape merely by virtue of the fact that her husband is the perpetrator. The amendment that came into force in February 2008 clearly does not go far enough as many women might not be aware or able to get PPOs, and therefore effectively these women will have no legal recourse. It is time that protection and recourse to rape be provided for all women irrespective of marital status.
19.25 In December 2009, a petition with 3,609 signatures was submitted to the Prime Minister’s office by the ‘No To Rape’ online petition coordinator, a group of ‘concerned Singaporeans who have come together for the single purpose of promoting change on this issue.’
The United Nations Committee has considered the submissions of the government and NGOs and issued a statement, which also includes remarks on marital rape:
The Committee expresses its concern at the persistence of violence against women in the State party, in particular, domestic and sexual violence, which remains, in many cases, under-reported. While welcoming the amendments to the Penal Code in 2008 on the criminalization of rape of a spouse, the Committee is concerned that it only applies when the perpetrator and the victims are living apart and are in process of termination of their marriage, and if the victim applied for a personal protection order.
The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Review its Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code in order to specifically criminalize domestic violence and marital rape, and ensure that the definition of rape covers any non-consensual sexual act;
(b) Provide mandatory training for judges, prosecutors and the police on the strict application of legal provisions dealing with violence against women and train police officers on procedures to deal with women victims of violence;
(c) Encourage women to report incidents of domestic and sexual violence, by de- stigmatizing victims and raising awareness about the criminal nature of such acts;
(d) Provide adequate assistance and protection to women victims of violence, by strengthening the capacity of shelters and crisis centres, and enhancing cooperation with NGOs providing shelter and rehabilitation to victims; and
(e) Collect statistical data on domestic and sexual violence disaggregated by sex, age, nationality and relationship between the victim and perpetrator.
No To Rape welcomes AWARE’s and the Committee’s call to change the law so that all women enjoy protection from sexual violence regardless of their marital status or their relationship with the perpetrator.