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Posts Tagged ‘Rape’

Sex is mutual. Rape is violence.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Over at Trapper’s Swamp, a really well-argued blog post about marital rape (emphases from original post):

The author claims that should the laws be repealed, ‘there is now no legal grounds left for the man to actually obtain sex from his wife’. This draws a couple of questions: why do we need legal justification for sex, and is sex the main reason for two persons to get married?

My answer to both questions is ‘No‘. Requiring legal justification for sex in marriage is ridiculous, and arguing that the marital rape immunity clauses remain in the Penal Code because of that is even worse. If legal grounds for sex is the only way a man can get to have sex with his wife (or vice-versa), there are bigger issues at play in that marriage. And if sex is the main reason to get married, then the ‘institution of marriage’ is doomed.

In a healthy marriage, I think it’s natural for couples to show affection for each other in various ways, including sex. There is give and take, understanding and compromise, commitment and communication. The sex will follow.

Consensual sex can be one of the ways in which spouses bond with each other. When mutually desired, it is frequently an intimate activity which may enhance a marital relationship.

The No To Rape petition has nothing to do with situations where married adults have mutually consensual sex to show affection for each other, to conceive children, or for any other purpose. It is concerned only with how we respond in cases where a woman has not consented to sex, and her husband penetrates her against her wishes – cases like PP v N.

In those circumstances, the woman does not experience the act as intimacy, or as sharing, or as a way to increase feelings of closeness between the couple. What she experiences is an act of violence.

Acts of violence are not part of what society values about marriage. Acts of violence hurt marriages and those within them. By condoning such acts, marital immunity for rape does not strengthen the institution of marriage, but rather undermines it.

(See our FAQ on this, too!)

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Thank you to MARUAH Singapore

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

No To Rape is very grateful to MARUAH Singapore, the Singapore working group for an ASEAN human rights mechanism, for supporting the repeal of marital immunity for rape. On its website, MARUAH Singapore states:

MARUAH (Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism) would like to extend its fullest support to the ongoing petition to protect spouses against marital rape.

Raping one’s spouse is an act of violence that is in gross violation of his or her human rights. Marriage should not grant one the ability to abuse one’s spouse through non-consensual sexual activity.

As we’ve just discussed, this petition is about the right to protection from violence – one of the most basic and universally agreed rights ever articulated. There can be only the most limited justifications for violence done by one citizen to another – self-defence, for instance. And there can be no justification for rape.

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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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More voices from the petition

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Hot on the heels of the last blog post, more signatures have appeared that need to be highlighted. The President of AWARE, Dana Lam, leaves a hard-hitting statement on the petition:

Men and women should stop raising boys as boys and start raising boys to reach for their full potential as creative, intelligent, compassionate people -same as how we should start raising girls. Rape is the violent cover up for men’s inadequacies. Get a life.

A message from a rape survivor, testifying yet again to the devastating impact of sexual violence:

I am a survivor of rape and sexual abuse. This occurance has disrupted my life beyond words. act with courage and wisdom

This signatory, too, speaks of the long-term suffering that rape inflicts:

Rape victims suffer a long time after the act has been committed. I should know. I was a victim myself. You never forget and never fully recover. No one should have to go through what countless other women have gone through.

Can we, as a society, really accept a Penal Code that states that inflicting these wounds is acceptable, as long as the perpetrator can produce a marriage registration? Can you?

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United voices

Friday, July 17th, 2009

No To Rape has now hit 1,000 signatures. Please keep up the good work of spreading the word!

Many signatures are accompanied by thoughtful and sometimes deeply personal comments. These messages unite voices from a range of perspectives and experiences, which together serve as a powerful testament to why the law must be changed to offer full protection from, and unqualified censure of, marital rape.

For example, consider the words accompanying the signature of former NMP and former President of AWARE Braema Mathi:

Often protecting persons in relationships is the most difficult task. Women prefer the silence to talking about being sexually assaulted by a husband, boyfriend, long-term partner. Having a law in place reassures women that they are not alone, they can talk about it, they can put an end to it, they can start the process of reclaiming themselves. This work by the organisers is yet another step to help women in Singapore get the protection they need under such circumstances.

This incisive account of how disempowered sexual violence can leave victims is borne out by another comment from someone who has experienced rape:

I was a rape victim. And rape is just something I feel NO woman should ever live with. Especially when the men aren’t penalised for that at all. It’s a scar that stays on with the victims for life. And why do women have to bear the dire consequences as a result of ignorant men’s reckless acts? Let’s all say no to rape.

This is the reality No To Rape and its supporters are working to address. Help us.

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Constance Singam endorses No to Rape

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Constance Singam needs no introduction in the world of civil society. As a former President of AWARE, former President of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, and key member of Transient Workers Count Too, amongst many other things, she has long worked hard for women’s welfare and the protection of the vulnerable. We are very pleased to announce her personal endorsement of the No To Rape campaign. Here is her message of support:

“Rape is rape.

Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim. The rapist can be a total stranger or someone you know or someone you are married to.

Marital rape is the worst kind of violation of a most trusting, intimate and cherished relationship between a man and a woman.

Marital Rape should therefore be criminalized.”

Our sincere thanks to Constance Singam for these strong words against sexual violence in any guise.

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Some good blog posts

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

We’re really delighted to see that people have been blogging in support of No To Rape. We’ve tried to maintain a list of links to blogs and websites that have supported our call for the abolition of marital immunity for rape, but updating it takes some time, so if we haven’t included you yet, please know that we are very grateful to you too! If you would like to draw our attention to your blog do email us.

We’d like to highlight a few posts that particularly struck us. From Yu-Kym:

You might not be able to identify a victim at all. Victims would usually endure such treatment for a period of time before telling anyone. It is humiliating enough getting raped by a stranger or a dinner-date, let alone by one’s own husband. Victims also tend to blame themselves. It certainly doesn’t help that there are judgmental people around would blame the woman for not performing her “wifely duties” in the first place. How about the “husbandly duty” of loving his wife? In my posts [Rough Sex], it took me 7 years to come up with the courage to say that I was almost date-raped. Scroll down to the 3rd comment and you will see someone’s judgment on what happened.

Once, I was also physically held against my will (not raped) after an argument. I had been in a relationship with the guy for many years so I was shocked when it happened for the first time. Did I ever think he would use physical force against me? No. I didn’t even tell my parents about the incident because I didn’t know what to say.

What I have experienced and feel doesn’t even come close to what a wife raped by her husband has. What I’m saying is: anyone might be a victim, including the woman behind the cash register, your colleague, your cousin, your sister or even you. No man should be given the right to do as he pleases with a woman regardless of her relationship to him.

For those reluctant to provide their IC number and name when signing the petition, Yu-Kym also makes the point that these are details we give out all the time, to enter into lucky draws or get free gifts at shopping centres – so please do enter them with your signature. We need these details to keep the petition credible, since they ensure this is being signed by real people. No To Rape is not seeking to make money from you and will not reveal these details to the public against your wishes.

Laicite makes insightful observations on the historical norms supporting marital immunity for rape:

[Under Deuteronomy in the Bible] if a man rapes an unbetrothed virgin, he must pay her father 50 shekels of silver and then marry her. From here we see that rape is not a crime against the woman, it is a crime against her father, because he is the one who owns her and her virginity.

Though the examples I mentioned were from the bible, this misogynistic notion of women as property is by no means limited to religion. Confucian and African cultures also have practices involving virginity testing and proof of “deflowering” on the wedding night, where if it were discovered that the bride were not a virgin, her family would face considerable shame and the marriage could even be annulled. Under Anglo-Saxon law, rape law was a form of property law, whereby the rapist was punished by having to make compensation to the victim’s husband or her father, depending on who exercised ownership over her. In effect, rape was treated as an act of trespass on a woman’s body, which was male property.

Today, such reasoning is not only archaic, it is simply sexist and offensive. Yet we still see similar cases made for the promotion of chastity until marriage, where the woman’s body and virginity is “reserved” for her future husband and rightful owner.

But as long as we respect that women are people too, with the freedom to make their own choices, we cannot dictate one way or another whether and when a woman should have sex.

There’s also been an interesting discussion at Holly Jean. And Tinker, Tailor has written a short but powerful piece.

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Real lives, real crimes – real change

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Thank you for the 360 signatures to date. Every single one of them is a step towards ending marital immunity for rape in Singapore. At the moment our signatories include notable figures like Ng Yi-Sheng, Adrianna Tan, Kenneth Jeyaretnam and Seelan Palay, as well as religious leaders such as Father Paul Staes from the Catholic Church and the Reverend Dr Yap Kim Hao. We hope to see even more in the coming days.

It’s hard for most people who have experienced rape to talk about it at all, but in the case of marital rape the betrayal of trust involved, and the position of interdependence or dependence between the spouses, can sometimes make it even harder. The failure of the law to recognise this as criminal violence may add a further layer of difficulty.

Knowing this, we are moved to see messages on our petition testifying to experiences of marital rape. To those who speak up about their own experiences of marital rape, and those who work with the victims of marital rape, thank you for your courage and generosity in sharing your stories. Your words make it even clearer that this is an issue which impacts upon real lives, which are hurt by real crimes – and that we need to make real change.

In the words of one signatory:

I am recently divorced from a violent marriage. I was unaware that sex would account to rape if the husband insists on sex but the wife does not consent. I hope this petition will educate and protect wives from being raped by their husbands.

Another says:

Marital rape is commonly carried out in cases of domestic violence. As a psychologist, many clients have told me of the horror of being raped by their husband

A third message reads:

I know at least 5 married women in Singapore who has been raped by their husbands before.This is completely despicable. I’ll be ashamed to be a Singaporean if nothing results from this petition. Really.

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