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Posts Tagged ‘Resources’

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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Competing visions of marriage in Islam

Friday, June 24th, 2011

In response to the recent news about a possible Singaporean branch of the Obedient Wives Club, Mohamed Imran Mohamed Taib has written an interesting article on competing visions of marriage in Islam. In it he discusses their implications for various issues including marital rape. The first vision he discusses is traditionalist:

…marriage is primarily seen not as a fulfillment of mutual love and respect, but as a set of duties and obligations. The man, as the absolute leader of the family, is entitled to absolute obedience from the woman. Any form of denying or subverting the authority of the husband may constitute nushuz (‘rebellion’).

This, inadvertently, includes the authority and right for men to demand sex, even if she refuses.

Such writings, which advocate the absolute submission of wives, are by no means rare. They form part of the episteme of traditionalist Islam. The popularity of books like Tohfa-e-Doulhan (Gift For The Bride), sold in local bookstores, obviously latches on to this dominant orientation as much as it seeks to entrench patriarchy through religious discourse. This is the crisis of traditionalist thought in Muslim jurisprudence.

He contrasts this to the views of many thinkers among Muslims all over the world, who understand Islam to promote an “egalitarian message”:

A notable Muslim jurist, Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, brilliantly dissected such problems in contemporary Muslim discourse on gender in his book, Speaking In God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority & Women (2001).

Scholars like him have identified the prevalence of the language of ‘obedience’ as an example of how the Muslims’ religious discourse on gender is in serious need of reform. This is a task that has been undertaken by contemporary reformists such as Ziba Mir Hosseini (Iran), Asma Barlas (USA), Riffat Hassan (Pakistan), Farid Esack (South Africa), Asghar Ali Engineer (India), KH. Hussein Muhammad (Indonesia), Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt), Fatima Mernissi (Morocco) and countless others.

In their progressive interpretation of Islam, a woman’s ‘obedience’ is owed directly to God as a principle of tawheed (monotheism), and not via ‘obedience’ to the male/husband.

They also highlighted that marriage is based on the equality of men and women, and, as specified in the Qur’an, “so that you may dwell in tranquility” and develop “deep feelings of love and mercy” (Q.30:21). Furthermore, roles and responsibilities are to be negotiated in mutual trust and respect, and are not pre-determined by God.

What is important is that their vision is grounded in the same sacred sources of the Qur’an and Hadith (prophetic traditions). Unfortunately, these perspectives have often been neglected and sometimes outright rejected in the name of an ossified and fossilised ‘Islam’.

The recent sensational news about the formation of the OWC provides an opportunity to open up discussion about one of the most taboo topics in public discourse – sex in marital life.

For reform-minded gender activists, this is the time to seize the moment and correct centuries-old assumptions about gender roles and relations – from issues of reproductive rights, inheritance law to marital rape.

It is also an opportunity to highlight the limits of traditionalist thought in properly diagnosing social issues and problems. For Muslims in particular, it is time for critical self-reflection, for reclaiming the egalitarian message of Islam, and for repositioning women as equally dignified partners in all spheres of life, marital relations included. It is time for a new gender discourse to take shape in the community.

It is also worth noting the statement of Muis (dated 17 June 2011) in response to the Obedient Wives Club (emphasis added by us):

Muis disagrees with the basis or objectives of the aforementioned Club as reported by the media.

The Club’s view that a satisfying sex life is the main solution to solving marital and social problems in the community is one that is myopic, and does not accurately portray the complexity of the problems faced by married couples. Such simplistic view is in fact demeaning to women and the institution of marriage and family which are held in high esteem in Islam.

[...] Happiness in a marriage goes beyond receiving sexual fulfillment from one’s wife. The Prophet himself (Peace be upon him) taught Muslims to engage in spousal sexual relations in a manner that is full of love and respect towards each other. This is because sexual relations are a form of ibadah (blessed deed in Islam) which requires consent and willingness from both parties.

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Getting a Personal Protection Order (PPO)

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

No To Rape calls for all instances of marital rape to be treated as “rape” under the Penal Code (or “sexual penetration of a minor”, where the victim is under 16). At the moment, this only happens if the victim has previously made applications for certain orders against their spouse. One of these is the Personal Protection Order (PPO).

AWARE have put together a helpful guide on PPOs which tells you where you can apply for them and what to do if they are not followed. Although you do not need a lawyer for a PPO, there is also advice on who you can contact if you do need legal help.

If you believe you (or anyone in your family) is at threat of violence from another family member (including your spouse), or a family member (including your spouse) has already committed violence against you (or another family member), it can be helpful to seek a PPO to deter further violence. You can access the AWARE guide by clicking here.

It is not always possible to tell in advance whether a spouse will commit violence, including sexual violence. Protection should be provided against all acts of abuse, foreseen or unforeseen. No To Rape believes the law should be changed so that no application for a PPO is necessary to treat marital rape as rape. With the law as it stands, however, the marital rape exemption is an additional reason why PPOs need to be made as easily accessible as possible, and we thank AWARE for making this useful information available.

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Submissions to MCYS on Women’s Charter

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sport is seeking feedback on proposed amendments to the Women’s Charter. Below is the submission made by No To Rape today.

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1. Background

1.1 No To Rape is a volunteer-led campaign calling for the total abolition of marital immunity for rape in Singapore. No To Rape seeks the complete repeal of Section 375(4) and Section 376A(5) of the Penal Code, so that all instances of non-consensual penetration of a woman’s vagina by a man’s penis constitute the offence of rape.

1.2 About 50 individuals from a range of racial and religious backgrounds have worked on No To Rape. The core team, responsible for management and funding, are Koh Wei Jie, Jolene Tan, Mark Wong and Wong Pei Chi. Opinions in this submission are those of the core team alone. Further information can be found at http://www.NoToRape.com/ and the core team can be contacted at notorape@gmail.com.

1.3 In 2009, No To Rape submitted to the Prime Minister a petition carrying more than 3,600 signatures by Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents in support of this legislative amendment. Notable signatories include:

1.3.1 Academics: Dr Kenneth Paul Tan, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Professor Chua Beng Huat, NUS Sociology Department; Professor Kumaralingam Amirthalingam, NUS Law Faculty.

1.3.2 Marriage counselors and social workers: David Blakely, President of the Singapore Association for Counselling; Benny Bong, President of the Society Against Family Violence.

1.3.3 Former NMPs: Kanwaljit Soin; Braema Mathi; Siew Kum Hong.

1.4 This petition was endorsed by the Association of Women for Action and Research and by MARUAH, the Singapore working group for an ASEAN human rights mechanism. A statement of support was also received from Trinity Theological College.

2. Submission

2.1 No To Rape welcomes the move by the Ministry to review the Women’s Charter and update the statutory and other legal provisions governing marital and other familial relations.

2.2 The Women’s Charter plays an important role in ensuring that situations of familial conflict are regulated to safeguard the security and well-being of all members of those families in Singapore that fall within its remit. (We note the exception of marriages between Muslims from the scope of the Charter.) In particular, it reflects an understanding of the position of physical vulnerability and economic dependence in which individuals may find themselves in relation to other family members, and of the corresponding need for robust state protection and legal recourse against familial abuse.

2.3 It is submitted that Section 375(4) and Section 376A(5) of the Penal Code should be repealed on the grounds that they undermine this important purpose, by creating immunity against criminal prosecution in the case of sexual violence perpetrated by men against their wives under specific conditions. These statutory provisions exempt non-consensual penetration by a man, with his penis, of a woman’s vagina, provided that the man and the woman are married to each other, unless certain limited conditions have been met (e.g. there has been an application for divorce, separation or a PPO, or a written separation agreement has been signed).

2.4 These provisions are inconsistent with the spirit of the Women’s Charter, which reflects the understanding that there exist difficult and unfortunate circumstances where, despite the existence of familial relations and the formal ties of marriage, a spouse may require the law to protect him or her from the abusive actions of his or her spouse. Neither these abusive actions nor their impact upon their victims are dependent on whether any application for divorce, separation or a PPO has yet been filed. Section 375(4) and 376A(5) deprive the police, the Ministry, the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the courts of Singapore of an important option when these agencies consider their response to such abuse.

2.5 In particular, as a result of Section 376A(5), marital immunity for rape applies even in the case of adult men who non-consensually penetrate their wives, where those wives are under the age of 16. In those cases, it is extremely likely that the wife lives under conditions of physical, economic and social vulnerability vis-à-vis her husband, and the expectation that she should take steps to apply for a divorce, separation or PPO before she qualifies for legal protection from violence is particularly burdensome and unrealistic.

2.6 International studies (such as those presented at the Ministry’s Family Violence Symposium of 2009) also indicate the prevalence of family abuse, including sexual abuse, against people with disabilities. The Ministry is urged to consider the particular impact of the requirements of Section 375(4) and 376A(5) (in terms of applying for divorce, separation or a PPO) on women with disabilities who experience sexual violence from their husbands.

2.7 Public opinion in Singapore is consistent with our recommendation. A 1993 report “Social Definitions of Family Violence in Singapore” by Choi, A. and Edleson, J L, surveyed the attitudes of 510 Singapore residents and found the following:

2.7.1 95% disapproved or strongly disapproved of the use of force by a husband if his wife refused to have sex.

2.7.2 74% considered having sex with one’s wife against her will to be assault. 93% considered assaulting one’s wife to be a crime.

2.7.3 69% considered having sex with one’s wife against her will to involve the ‘major’ use of force. An overwhelming majority — 83.8% — favoured police intervention (ranging from warning to charging to arresting the husband) in even a first-time ‘major’ assault.

2.7.4 Only 11.7% considered that judges should treat wife assaults less seriously than other personal assaults. 53.4% thought they should be treated equally seriously, and 34.6% thought wife assaults should be treated more seriously.

2.8 Where it is not possible to prove non-consensual penetration to the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in a court of law, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and/or judicial scrutiny is the appropriate mechanism for preventing any miscarriage of justice. By contrast, the existing statutory immunity is an unnecessary barrier to appropriate prosecutions and convictions even where the evidence is sufficient to meet that standard.

2.9 In addition, it is submitted that the proposed introduction of Section 12A presents a timely opportunity for further preventative action against sexual violence between spouses. The Ministry is urged to ensure that all marriage preparation courses completed in satisfaction of this new requirement equip the prospective couple with a thorough understanding of the importance of affirmative consent in any sexual activity within their marriage. Specifically, couples should be encouraged to recognise that:

2.9.1 Sexual activity should only take place when it is mutually and freely consented to by both spouses and in the absence of any coercion, whether this coercion takes physical, emotional, economic or other forms.

2.9.2 If one party is in doubt at any time as to the wishes or consent of their spouse regarding sexual activity, they should actively seek clarification.

2.9.3 Proceeding with sexual activity when one spouse has not given clear consent amounts to violence, which is punishable under the Penal Code.

2.9.4 A party who has been subjected to sexual violence from his or her spouse can seek help through applying for a PPO or making a police complaint. This is a valid self-protective measure to take, and should not be regarded as a betrayal, shame or failure.

2.10 It is noted that Section 12A is expected to apply, in particular, to marriages where at least one party is a minor (Consultation Paper). The recommendation in 2.9 above is particularly germane in view of the particular vulnerabilities of minor spouses discussed at 2.5 above.

3. Conclusion

3.1 It is submitted that the Women’s Charter (Amendment) Bill represents a timely opportunity to fully repeal Section 375(4) and Section 376A(5) of the Penal Code, so that all instances of non-consensual penetration constitute the offence of rape, in keeping with the humane and pragmatic purposes of the Women’s Charter.

3.2 Compulsory marriage preparation courses should emphasise the importance of affirmative consent in all sexual activity. This will promote better marital relations, help to prevent future sexual violence within marriages, and also better equip victims to seek timely assistance should such violence nevertheless occur.

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Please consider making a submission to MCYS in support of our proposals. You can do so through the REACH website until 24 October.

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Campaign Action: Tell a New Person Each Day

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

(Campaign Actions are suggestions we make every fortnight for steps you can take – in addition to spreading the No To Rape message online – to help the effort for change. Previous Campaign Actions: [1], [2] and [3].)

The current No To Rape Campaign Action is:

Tell a New Person Each Day. It’s that simple. Every day for the next two weeks, mention the No To Rape campaign and website to one person you haven’t spoken about it to before.

You can use the leaflets provided in the Promote section to help you respond to any questions or to get the conversation going.

We are working hard to spread the word to as many people as we can, but we can’t do this without you. Please act to create a society which takes sexual violence seriously, no matter what its form may be.

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Campaign Action: put up our posters

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

(Campaign Actions are suggestions we make every fortnight for steps you can take – in addition to spreading the No To Rape message online – to help the effort for change. Previous Campaign Actions: [1] and [2].)

The current No To Rape Campaign Action is:

Put up our poster. You can find a simple, black-and-white A4-sized poster in the Resources column of the Promote section of our website. Print it out on ordinary paper and put it up on the notice boards of places you go to – like your office, your campus or your place of worship. Get permission from your favourite shop or eating place to put it up there too!

Please send us an email at NoToRape@gmail.com to let us know where you put the posters up – preferably with a picture if you can take one! We’d also love to hear about it if you took part in last fortnight’s Campaign Action.

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Towards Criminalising Marital Rape: on video

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Videos of our public seminar are now being posted here. Not all of the event is reflected there yet, as the uploading process takes some time, but most of the presentations and Q&As are already available. So if you didn’t make it to SMU last Friday – or if you did, and want to revisit any of it – have a look!

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No To Rape films: “It is time we speak up”

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Thanks to the kindness of writer/director David Shiyang Liu, we are pleased to release the film-ad, “It is time we speak up”. This premiered at the No To Rape Seminar on Friday and is now available on YouTube. Please share this video with friends and family, and encourage them to sign the Petition today.

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Tamil version of petition now available

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Thanks to the generosity of volunteers, the Tamil language version of the No To Rape Petition is now up! You can access this as a webpage or download it as a PDF file which you can send on to friends and family. Don’t forget that Chinese (simplified and traditional) and Bahasa Melayu translations are available too.

p.s. Be sure to register for tomorrow’s seminar – spaces are still available!

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Campaign Action: write to the press

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Remember our Campaign Actions? Every fortnight, we post a new suggestion for something you can do to be even more effective at promoting the No To Rape message. Two weeks ago we asked you to write to your MP.

The current No To Rape Campaign Action is:

Write to the press. We suggest writing to any publication you read regularly, whether it’s a newspaper like The Straits Times, Today, Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian, Tamil Murasu, or The Business Times; or a magazine; or a newsletter for your school or workplace or club or association.

Tell them that you think marital immunity for rape should be abolished, and why.

Your letter will have more impact if you use your own words. Feel free to use the FAQ the Resources in the Promote section for information or ideas.

If you’re not sure what to say, here are a few possibilities:

- At the moment, except in limited circumstances, a man who forces sex upon his wife cannot be charged for rape. This is wrong and should change because rape is violence, and spousal violence is not acceptable.

- In August is the 10th anniversary of the hearing for PP v N, a case where a man tied his wife up, gagged her and forced intercourse upon her. He could not be charged for rape. A decade later, even with changes to the law in 2007, the result would be the same.

- Marital rape happens. Signatories on the No To Rape petition have spoken of their personal experiences as victims, or their work with victims.

- Are you of a particular faith? Mention that marital immunity for rape is not supported by your religious values.

- Marital immunity does not apply to non-consensual anal or oral sex, so the police and the law are prepared to investigate non-consent in the context of marriage. They should do so in relation to all forms of sexual violence.

Please send us your letters too, and let us know if you have responses. The more we share, the more effective we’ll be.

Thank you for promoting humane standards of treatment for women in Singapore.

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