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Posts Tagged ‘Rape’

No To Rape at SlutTalk (3 December)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Many of you are probably aware of SlutWalk Singapore, the local chapter of the international movement against victim-blaming in rape cases and the common practice of “slut-shaming”, or judging and shaming people because of their sexuality or perceptions about their sexuality. To find out more about the ethos and aims of SlutWalk, which is frequently misunderstood, do read their brief FAQ.

In addition to the main SlutWalk taking place on 4 December, SlutWalk is hosting a range of related events to raise awareness about sexual violence. Wong Pei Chi of No To Rape will participate in SlutTalk, a series of workshops, talks and discussions taking place all afternoon and evening at the Substation on 3 December. Together with Dr. Ingrid Hoofd and Alex Serrenti, she will be part of a roundtable discussion about victim-blaming and advocacy around sexual violence, titled “Challenging Complicities” and organised by Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance. It begins at 6pm.

There are many other events going on which may be of interest: see the full listing here.

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Welcome change to Evidence Act

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

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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“Two Views of Rape”: Guest post on SlutWalk Singapore

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

SlutWalk Singapore is holding a series of events to combat sexual violence in Singapore and the social attitudes that often prevent rape survivors from being taken seriously when they speak about their experiences. No To Rape has contributed a guest blog post on marital rape to the SlutWalk site.

Some rapes, the law says, don’t really count.

To understand this, we need to recognise that there are broadly two, incompatible, ways of looking at rape.

The first takes seriously the fundamental right of all people to the ownership of their bodies. There are no exceptions. Every person, of any gender or marital status and regardless of anything in their character or personal history, has a right to the absolute final say on what, if anything, is put into their bodies. A rapist’s physical acts are a forcible assertion of the right to make this decision for someone else. This is inherently violent, even if there are no further blows (though there often are). Rape is best thought of not as “sex gone wrong”, but as a beating, carried out with a sexual organ rather than a fist. This point of view is championed by – among others – No To Rape, the campaign to abolish marital immunity for rape in Singapore.

Click through to read the rest of the post, as well as the many other perspectives offered by a diverse range of bloggers.

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Help for rape victims

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual assault, at the hands of a spouse or anyone else, help is available to you. AWARE has put together some useful information explaining what medical and other services are available, and what can be done to assist the police in investigating the case. (A PDF information sheet can be found here.) AWARE also runs a confidential, specialised Sexual Assault Befrienders Service which you can contact by phone or email if you need to talk about sexual assault.

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Help for rape victims

Friday, November 27th, 2009

The bloggers at Barnyard Chorus have shown No To Rape a lot of support, for which we are very grateful.

They have also put together some resources highlighting what sort of help you can and should seek if you have experienced sexual violence, whether from a spouse or anyone else. We recommend reading this even if you haven’t been assaulted, simply because (as blogger Badly Drawn Pig points out), it is not possible to predict sexual violence in advance:

In this Porkchop’s continued badly drawn efforts to bring you information you might need in case of emergency, I’m going to provide some porcine-weight, choi-ke-lei resources on seeking help in the event of rape or sexual assault, for all women and girls in Singapore.

Rape and sexual assault victims, I think, mostly don’t think or know that they’re going to be victimised like that. So it can happen to anyone.


Information about medical services and helplines follows. Do have a look.

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Inadequacies in protection

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Dr Theresa Devasahayam of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies has written a letter to the Straits Times about family violence.

But the amended charter has its shortfalls. While it protects spouse, former spouse, child, stepchild, adopted child, parents, parents-in-law and any other relative or incapacitated individual who is regarded by the court as a member of the family, couples who live together are excluded.

If the Family Violence Bill was in place, courts would have protected even de facto or common law ‘marriages’ and not ignore them altogether.

The Women’s Charter has another defect. Only the victim can apply for a protection order. In reality, the victim often believes she cannot help herself and, as a result, fails to take any action to end the abusive relationship.

An advantage of the Family Violence Bill would have been that anyone who had reason to believe that family violence (including spousal violence) was being committed could apply for a protection order for the victim.

The Women’s Charter is flawed in another way. The amended charter makes it mandatory not only for the abuser but also the victim to undergo counselling. In contrast, the Family Violence Bill would have reserved mandatory counselling for the abuser only.

Clearly, family violence should be fought on many fronts, as is currently done. But legal reform is also critical to eradicate this social problem. The legal reforms in place to fight family violence are a step forward, but more can be done to ensure gender egalitarianism.

It is interesting to note that for many forms of family violence, as Dr Devasahayam points out, unmarried partners do not enjoy the same protections as married partners or formerly married partners. In the case of rape, conversely, women raped by their unmarried partners benefit from protection which is not extended to women raped by their husbands.

These inconsistencies reflect an incomplete picture of the reality of experiences of violence and suggest that legal public policy approaches need better rationalisation. All kinds of violence should be considered equally severe. At the same time, there are specific issues raised when dealing with forms of violence faced by people tied by shared daily lives and households – for example, an overarching dynamic of domination and control would not exist in a street fight between strangers, but would exist in a couple who lived together, whether or not they were married to each other. More social support might be needed in the second case, for the reasons that Dr Devasahayam puts forward. The recognition of this reality, as reflected in the Women’s Charter, strengthens the case for the abolition of marital immunity for rape.

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Naming wrongs

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

We would like to thank the blog Barnyard Chorus for supporting No To Rape, with quite a few posts on the subject of marital immunity for rape. The latest quotes a legal discussion on human rights and argues that full legal recognition of marital rape is necessary for the humane treatment of women:

While disbelief and associated impunity reign, the violated are–systematically and effectively speaking–rendered not fully human legally or socially. When and where this denial is overcome the rights against the extreme and the normal are recognized, the treatment is defined as inhuman and the victims human.

[...] The reason why [opponents of No To Rape] make these arguments is that in their view there is no need for the law to treat the rape of women as the punishable violation of human beings.

We have acknowledged that the abolition of marital immunity alone will not address all the issues raised by marital rape, and the precise criminal justice responses that are appropriate upon conviction should be open for discussion. However, an adequate solution cannot be found unless there is first a complete and honest acknowledgement that marital rape is a wrong, which society – through the law – condemns as criminal.

Many victims of marital rape report an atmosphere of silence and suppression around their experiences, and at our Seminar social worker Benny Bong, President of the Society Against Family Violence, noted that the social denial of the rape and other domestic violence often amounts to further victimisation in and of itself. It is a refusal of the validity and legitimacy of the pain, and the sense of violation, that these women suffer. Little wonder one signatory on our petition has left a message saying that, in the face of the law as it stands, “As a woman myself, I do not feel respected by my country.”

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Thanks to The Online Citizen

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

No To Rape would like to thank The Online Citizen (TOC) for its recent coverage of the campaign. It raises some interesting questions about the response to No To Rape, including a comparison to the 2007 petition to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Originally scheduled to end in September, the petition drive has been extended to 30 November.

One reason for this slow response is because marital rape has been given less publicity in the press, as opposed to homosexuality, said professor Chua Beng Huat, a sociology professor in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He added: “Those who were raped by their spouses are reluctant to go to court for violence or abuse.”

Prof Chua also said that victims of marital rape are also less likely to take on self-identity as marital rape victims, unlike homosexuals who label themselves as LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people).

According to him, gay politics is driven by gays themselves and not by somebody on their behalf, and they constitute a significant number of individuals signing the petition against 337A, while marital rape petition is done on the behalf of the victims who are likely to be a small number.

As the article mentions, we are very much heartened by the positive responses we’ve had to date – it means a great deal to us because we are such a small team, working with so few resources. It’s worth noting, though, that homosexuality has a much greater profile in pop culture and the media in recent years than does marital rape. Movies like Brokeback Mountain and Milk have achieved immense commercial success, but there is no real comparable visibility for marital rape. Moreover, rape victims are more unlikely to identify themselves to anyone at all, even to one another, or gather for social and other purposes on the basis of their experiences of victimisation, as it is often hard to imagine any gain from doing so. This is especially the case in relation to marital rape, where the law does not even recognise the assault as rape to begin with.

In our opinion, these are a few reasons why the petitions are not in quite the same position in terms of pre-existing visibility and organiser and supporter demographics.

Our hope is very much that this campaign will help to open up a public conversation about this issue, and to the extent this is already happening, your responses to us have been far from “lukewarm”. For this, we thank you, the public – and hope you will continue to push the discussion further in every possible arena.

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Making ourselves heard

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Thanks to your help in spreading the word, we now have more than 2,800 signatures on the Petition. This is a great show of support for the abolition of marital immunity for rape, but we can do more. Please continue to let others know about the petition – tell your family members over dinner, post it to your Facebook profile or your blog, or make use of our handy leaflets to let people know about No To Rape.

As always, many of you have left messages that are well worth highlighting. Rajashree Rajan writes:

Rape is well-documented and understood to be about power rather than sex itself or pleasure. If we as a society frown upon sexual harassment at work or in a social setting, why should we allow a man to exert such a violent & invasive show of power of a women merely because they share a marriage certificate?

Lim Hsuan’ya adds:

I am very disappointed and utterly upset when I learn about this. How can we call ourself a modern society when such medival law exist.
As a woman myself, I do not feel respected by my country.

And Jeanne Sze Hwee Chai contrasts the message sent by marital immunity for rape against the ideals that society cherishes for marriage:

A union is suppose to be a safe place for two people to grow together. No violence, physical, emotional or sexual should be tolerated. Rape is rape, even if it’s perpetrated by a spouse.

Thank you for your support.

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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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