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Posts Tagged ‘Legal’

More on PP v N

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

You may have seen that No To Rape has been featured in the Straits Times again. Thank you once again to all the volunteers and supporters who have helped to make this campaign newsworthy. Your efforts mean that the No To Rape message can reach a wider group of people.

Interestingly, blogger Mr Wang has picked up the story (we are grateful for the link!), and it emerges that he was the prosecutor in the landmark marital rape case of PP v N (we posted the facts previously but the link is malfunctioning slightly – click on the ‘Legal’ tag on the right and you can read them). Mr Wang describes his experience in the High Court:

The prosecution appealed for a higher sentence. I took the case to the High Court. There I presented to the Chief Justice various arguments for a heavier sentence.

I still remember the first question that Yong Pung How had asked in court. He asked, “Why wasn’t this man charged for rape?”

Yong didn’t know that the prosecution couldn’t do that. He looked slightly stunned, when I pointed him to the relevant immunity provision in the Penal Code. At first sight, Yong’s ignorance of that point was very surprising (you would expect the Chief Justice to know better). However, on further reflection, Yong’s ignorance was not that surprising.

Why? Well, as Chief Justice, Yong had heard hundreds, perhaps thousands of criminal cases. So he knew a lot about criminal law. But Yong had never heard a single case where a husband had been charged for raping his wife. And that, of course, was because the law did not even allow the prosecution to charge any husband for such an offence.

Anyway, the Chief Justice increased the sentence for N. He brought the overall sentence close to the maximum possible, for the charges of “criminal intimidation” and “voluntarily causing hurt”. If I recall correctly, it added up to a few years’ imprisonment. This was a big improvement over the original sentence, but it was still a lot lower than what it would have been, for a bona fide rape charge. Even the Chief Justice is constrained by the words in the Penal Code, you see.

It may be worth referring to the words of then-Chief Justice Yong in the case, which reflect the principles that rape is a form of sexual violence and that violence committed against one’s spouse is no less severe than violence against a stranger. Both these principles support the total abolition of marital immunity for rape. We have added emphasis to the relevant language.

Click here for more

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Query on proof and ‘double jeopardy’

Friday, August 14th, 2009

We have received the following query, which may be of interest to visitors to the site. So, with the kind permission of the author, we are reproducing it here. Given the length of the query, the author has also given us permission to abridge the initial email. We have indicated omissions and paraphrasing in square brackets but hope the final result accurately conveys the substance of the concerns: Entry continues, click here for more

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One step among many

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The abolition of marital immunity for rape will not resolve all issues relating to marital rape. Far from it. Many other interventions are needed. Counselling, mediation, medical help and the civil law all have a part to play in responding to incidents, and education and a wider national conversation are needed to build a culture where all are conscious of the importance of seeking and communicating consent when engaging in sexual activity.

Even where convictions are obtained, there is dispute over the measures that should result. Hauling perpetrators to prison or meting out strokes of the cane may not always be appropriate for the circumstances, and will never by themselves do away with sexual violence. Restorative justice measures such as victim-offender mediation and mandatory behavioural therapy for offenders may often be more constructive than purely punitive responses.

However, the change we propose to the Penal Code is one vital step among many. Recognising that marital rape is equal to other forms of rape in harm and culpability does not end the story. Rather, it opens up possibilities for dialogue on what to do next. The Penal Code would send an unequivocal statement: this form of violence and wrongdoing has no place in society. Whatever your greviances with your spouse, you must not violate their bodily integrity, but resolve them through peaceful means. It also says: if your spouse is physically abusing you, this is not something you need to tolerate. Under no circumstances do you deserve this. If you suffer it, and you wish to speak up, we will take you seriously, rather than write this off as a lovers’ tiff.

At the moment, the law denies that marital rape happens, or pretends it is acceptable, or characterises it as a personal dispute in which parties are both, somehow, murkily responsible – rather than seeing it as being, like beating your wife or husband, a completely intolerable method of resolving disagreements. The law as it stands does not identify a victim and a perpetrator and so cannot communicate vindication and censure.

This petition is not primarily about harsh punishment, though we believe greater crimes should carry more burdensome punishments and lesser crimes lesser ones (for example, non-consensual penetration should be treated more severely than unwanted stroking). The possibility of conviction, and thus the societal condemnation inherent in criminal law, matters. When, in a counselling session or mediation for example, the counsellor or mediator is able to identify certain forms of behaviour as not only undesirable or unwise or unpleasant but criminal, this has greater gravity.

The reform we advocate crystallises a social understanding that the act of rape is a breach of the basic standards which make it possible to live side by side with others in society.

No To Rape does not pretend that this will solve all problems. However, it is one important part of our societal response, a part which is critical to establishing a footing for other parts. Unless and until we name rape for what it is – as long as we deny what actually happens – how can we hope to adequately address it?

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What is at stake

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

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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Public Prosecutor v N: facts

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The legal judgment in the marital rape case of Public Prosecutor v N [1999] 4 SLR 619, which we have referred to several times in the FAQ, is dated 26 August, 1 October 1999. In August this year is the 10th anniversary of that first date – and the issues raised in the case remain as important as ever. Here is the summary of the facts in the legal judgment.

On 18 August 1998, while the respondent was away on overseas training, he paged for her. She responded to his paging and contacted him by telephone. In the course of the conversation, an argument ensued over the payment of his handphone bill. When the wife suggested that they get a divorce, the respondent was very upset and angry. He threatened to kill her if she dared to leave him. The wife was very frightened and she believed that he would carry out his threat upon his return from his training in less than three weeks’ time. This was because he spoke in a very fierce manner and he had on previous occasions behaved violently towards her.

Upon the respondent’s return to Singapore on 4 September 1998, he asked the wife to meet him, promising that they would have a peaceful talk. During a discussion at the void deck at Blk 410 Serangoon Central later in the evening, the respondent and the wife quarrelled again. He dragged her into his car and drove her back to their house at Rivervale Road. Upon arrival, he ordered her to go to their apartment bedroom. To avoid a scene, she did as she was told. He followed her into the bedroom and locked the door after them.

The wife was seated on the bed when the respondent hugged her. When she struggled to free herself, he turned violent and forcibly stripped her of her clothes. He then used a bath towel to tie her hands together and used another piece of cloth to gag her. Thereafter, he proceeded to engage in sexual intercourse with her against her will.

After that, he helped her to put on her pair of shorts and panties before untying her. He then took out a blouse which he had bought for her and told her to put it on. She resisted. This was followed by another physical struggle by her which ended with his slapping her across her face. When the respondent had calmed down, the wife told him that she wanted to go back to her parents’ place. The respondent agreed and drove her back to Serangoon Central.

The man in this case was not charged or convicted of rape, but only of much lesser charges relating to the other aggressive behaviour, carrying far less severe penalties than those associated with rape.

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