On marital rape
September 28, 2009, 12:55 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Gender, Singapore

seminar_graphicThe issue of marital rape has been on my mind for quite sometime already but reading the comments on this article on TOC has triggered me to write my views about it here and now.

Under Section 375 of the Penal Code, the offence of rape means the non-consensual penetration by a man, using his penis, of a woman’s vagina. Section 375(4) implies that, except in limited circumstances inapplicable to the majority of married women, this act will not amount to rape, if the perpetrator and the victim are married to each other.

Such a code is chauvinistic and should be repealed. Furthermore, it demeans the position of a married woman in the eyes of law. It not only allows men to use marriage as an excuse to force their wives to have sex with them, it also denies married women the right to say no or to claim rape.

In my opinion, raping your wife is rape, the same as raping your girlfriend, best friend, daughter, niece, neighbour, neighbour’s daughter or some random hot chick. All women should have the right to say no and be given legal standing to pursue justice if their rights have been violated, whether they are married or not. At the same time, all men must learn to respect their wives.

There is this argument however, that it seems ridiculous for a woman to say no to her husband. After all, they are married so how can they say no to sex with her husband? Personally I find that argument ridiculous in itself. Must a woman necessarily feel like having sex as and when her husband pleases and wants?

Let us take a look at the roles that a woman has to play in the 21st century. Assuming that she is married and has children, she plays the role of a wife and a mother. She also plays the role of a daughter as well as a daughter-in-law. On top of that, she may have to go out to work the same amount of time as her husband, if not more. Once she gets home from work, there are household chores to take care of, children and husband to spend time with. She might have family obligations to play, taking care of a medically unwell in-law or her own parents for example. Not all families can afford domestic helpers and not all husbands will spend time doing household chores, not even in the present day and age. She gets tired, both physically and mentally and might want to get a good rest for the day. Doesn’t she have the right to say no to her husband from time to time if she is mentally and physically not in the mood for sex? Must she submit to her husband’s needs and wants at all times if she feels unable to even generate the physical energy to do so? Under such circumstances, some men uses force to get what they want because their sexual needs are greater than the respect for their wives’ needs to rest. That is what I am really disturbed about. Sex must be consensual and enjoyable for both parties, and the wife should not have to bear the burden of being a victim of her husband’s inability to control the beast in himself, resulting in an unenjoyable marriage life and sexual activity.

Marital rape is a violation of a woman’s rights and should be considered as part of domestic abuse. If a man cannot respect his wife’s wishes, then he doesn’t love her. If a man cannot control his wee brain down south using his brain up north, then he deserves to be incarcerated by the law, whether the victim is his wife or otherwise. The protection of women against rape should be all across the board, irregardless of whether they are married to the perpetrator or not.

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19 Comments so far
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Dear Rachel,

Islam is totally against domestic violence and spousal abuse. However Islam does NOT recognise the concept of marital rape. I suppose if there is evidence of domestic abuse/violence, the Muslim wife can take the matter to the Syariah Court. However – if its simply a case of the wife denying sex to the husband without any good reason – then I do not think that Islam will accept claims of marital rape under such conditions.
I think that you must first understand that – in the case of Islam at least – there are Syariah rules to abide by. Singapore does not define Islam. The larger Muslim world does. MUIS cannot therefore invent laws which the rest of the Muslim world may find to be contra Islamic teachings.
But why stop at marital rape ? In Islam – polygamy is acceptable. In Islam – the women inherit less than the men. And so on. And so – you must be careful NOT to impose your values upon other cultures whose values may be different from yours.

Regards
Dr Syed Alwi

Comment by Dr Syed Alwi

Dear Dr Syed Alwi,

indeed it is to my knowledge that Islam is totally against domestic violence and spousal abuse while at the same time it doesn’t recognise the concept of marital rape. I have read and studied the hadith as well as the Quran when I was younger and although I cannot considered myself as well knowledgeable in matters of Islam, there are certain things that I am aware about. Although I am highly in disagreement with some of the approved treatment of women in Islam, I have to clarify that I am not trying to impose my values upon people of another religion or another culture here. Let me explain.

Singapore is a secular state and Singaporeans come from various ethnic cultures and religious backgrounds. We should all respect the values and beliefs of one another. Our laws should not be made based on religious considerations but on a wider guideline, catering for everyone in general. This is to be fair for all because you cannot expect a Christian, a Jew or an atheist to accept that the concept of marital rape does not exist or should not be recognised just because the hadith and Quran say so. If the muslim community rises up to insist that the concept of marital rape should not be recognise, then that will be what you call imposing ‘your values upon other cultures whose values may be different from yours’. There is always the Syariah Court to retain laws that gives total consideration towards the teachings of Islam. Let us not extend that to secular laws, in due respect of the people of other cultures, who may have different values than you. I do not mean this in a negative manner, it is just a matter of fact.

That is why I still stand firm that Section 375(4) of the Penal Code should be repealed, giving options to those who believe that marital rape is a valid violation of their rights to come forward to seek help and justice. If a muslim woman is pious enough and has enough faith in the words of the Quran, then she won’t be recognising the concept of marital rape at all and thus won’t seek any form of justice for that. Similarly enough, if a man is pious enough and has enough faith in the words of the Quran, then he won’t force his wife to do the things that will hurt them physically and mentally.

In my blog post, I did not mention anything that you have commented on TOC’s article because I believe that your religious beliefs should be respected and tolerated by myself who is an atheist. In fact, much of my post was made in response to the comments of the rest who believe that once married, it is ridiculous for a woman to say no to her husband. That is all.

Remember, this is a secular state that also has a Syariah court to cater for the muslim community. If you do not believe that the act should be repealed, you need not sign the petition. Of course, I understand your stand and thank you for enlightening all of us with the perspective of a muslim. Keep on sharing, so as to let us understand more about your beliefs as we share ours with you :)

(I won’t elaborate my believes on polygamy here but just fyi, I don’t disagree with it. I merely disagree with the fact that only men can practice it.)

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Dear Rachel,

I think that you mis-understand some things. A Muslim marriage can only seek advice from the Syariah Court. Maybe the laws of marital rape as you so passionately fight for – should NOT be made to cover Muslims. Otherwise we end up with a conflict of laws – where secular marital rape laws run contra to Islamic Syariah Laws.
Like I said on TOC – one can charge a Muslim husband for domestic violence – but not rape. I think that the best way out is simply to NOT apply secular marital rape laws to Muslims. Allowing it is opening Pandora’s box. Don’t forget that our neighbours are Muslim countries who constantly watch at developments regarding Islam and Muslims in Singapore. Besides – any conflict of laws would invite international attention and the whole thing gets over-blown.
Finally – where do we draw the line ? If secular marital rape laws are to be imposed on Muslims – then what about the other aspects of the Syariah Law ? In the end – where does Syariah Law stand ?
I stand firmly against domestic violence and I would leave it at that.

Regards
Dr Syed Alwi

Comment by Dr Syed Alwi

Dear Dr Syed Alwi, I understand that in Islam, a Muslim marriage can only seek advise from the Syariah Court. We have a Syariah Court here in Singapore to cater for Muslims. At the same time we are run as a secular state. The secular law in a secular state caters for all, regardless of religion so it need not state that it excludes Muslims or Christians or people from other religions in certain laws or regulations because it is a law for all. That is why it is called secular law. The Syariah Court on the other hand handles Islamic law and is for believers to seek advise and justice. Certainly I have no problem with its existence. In fact I am really glad that in a secular state like ours, we allow for the religious court to exist to cater to people of the Islamic faith because our secular laws might not be sensitive enough to cater for Muslims who do not believe in secular laws. So a secular law on marital rape need not necessarily be imposed upon a Muslim. However since the Quran states that there should be no compulsion in Islam, why is it that if a Muslim woman feels the need to seek justice out of the Syariah Court, she can’t do so? Kindly enlighten me on that as it is a genuine question. Besides that, I believe that being mentally and physically tired is a good reason for a wife to say no to her husband. From an Islamic perspective, is that the same as well? Also from an Islamic perspective, making the wife perform her ‘sexual duties’ when she clearly is not up for it isn’t considered a violation? Under what circumstances can she refuse? (I ask my fundamental Christian acquaintances the same thing too so it is not just you because I do want to know more). I do hope that you can share this with us here.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Dear Rachel,

A Muslim marriage can only be adjudicated by the Syariah Court. This applies to BOTH husband and wife who may want to complain. That is why a Muslim can only marry another Muslim. Conversion is a must. In any case – the secular laws here do make religious exceptions like the opt-out clause for HOTA etc. If you ask Muslims from elsewhere – they will tell you that there is NO secularism within Islam. In Singapore – MUIS and the Syariah Courts play an important role. They manage the affairs of the Muslim community. Not all secular laws are blindly applicable to Muslims.

Yes – a husband should not force himself on a tired wife. But then – a wife cannot deny sex for her husband without a valid excuse.

I have no doubts whatsoever that secular, marital rape laws should NOT apply to Muslim marriages.

Organised religion is not necessarily a rational thing – and indeed many aspects of religion defies logic. The business of religion is FAITH and not reason !

Regards
Dr Syed Alwi

Comment by Dr Syed Alwi

Right, now I have a clearer idea although I don’t really like what you said about a wife not being able to deny sex for her husband without a valid excuse, something I also discussed at length with Muslim friends before. However I remember that a Muslim guy friend of mine told me once that there is logic, science and human rights in Islam and I can find the examples in the Quran.

Sure, the business of religion is faith and not reason… that is why I decided to go back to being an atheist after years of research on various religions.

From what you say, well maybe yeah Muslims can be exempted from having secular laws imposed on them. (I say this with a heavy heart and I feel terribly sorry for female Muslims with my atheistic heart)

Comment by rachelabsinthe

To Rachel,

your article itself isn’t fair. you chose to omit men’s role in society (locally speaking), & paints a distorted image of men.

what’s not fair?
1) painting men (not husbands which the petition is about) as self serving “beasts”.
2)coming up with one-sided examples like “the roles that a woman has to play”, then gives selective examples of those roles.
3) “If a man cannot control his wee brain down south using his brain up north, then he deserves to be incarcerated by the law, whether the victim is his wife or otherwise.”
4) “… the wife should not have to bear the burden of being a victim of her husband’s inability to control the beast in himself…”

point (3) assumes women are not aware of any charactor defect/s in their boyfriends, before they marry, yet proceed to go on & marry defies reason & logic. the petition specifically targets husbands, so how can you even imply the husband’s relationship can be that of any other man?

its not like women (locally) will just marry any guy who woes them, regardless of financial capability, shared values, personal compatability, chemistry, & so on. lol…

on point (4), is a sexually biased view. because men too can point out how women can be such-&-such, & the debate will go downhill…

sadly, this is article jumps right in with selective examples, biased views does not make a robust case to support the petition.

when emotions run high, logic & rational thinking takes a back seat.

Comment by Joseph

Hey Joseph, thank you for pointing certain things out.

Yes I agree that I might have been too harsh on certain things, neglecting certain factors that needs to come into play which makes this whole post seem as a tad too bias and emotional. I agree that a woman won’t just marry any guy who woes them without considering the many other factors you have listed. Let me clarify certain things however:

1. I wasn’t painting all men as self serving beasts. This whole blog post was focusing only on married men who committed (and are still free to commit) marital rape without thinking twice about why their wives say no.

2. Look around you, such examples of women who have to play multiple roles do exist. As women become on par with men in the workforce, their role at home has never really changed much. Some are lucky to be able to employ domestic helpers, most are not. Alot of them are also lucky to have husbands who respect their wishes and seek their consent. Once again, this blog post targets on the husband because the petition IS about the husband as Section 375(4) certainly lets the husband get away with the rape of his wife.

3. Of course most women do not just go get married to any Tom, Dick or Harry who they know nothing about. However you can never deny the fact that there are some men (women too by the way) who change years after marriage and kids.

4. I was referring to women who have been raped by their own husbands who turned violent and disrespectful. Women are not all saintly and great, no I did not imply that either.

In general, I believe that my thoughts were targeted on the husbands who have gone violent in their minds and actions (rape IMO, is violence). Sure, any woman can leave a man as easily as ABC nowadays but there are always kids to consider. There are many more options of course to handle this situation but I think that the law should recognise the concept of marital law by repealing Section 375(4).

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Dear Rachel,

A Muslim marriage can only be adjudicated by the Syariah Court. This applies to BOTH husband and wife who may want to complain. That is why a Muslim can only marry another Muslim. Conversion is a must. In any case – the secular laws here do make religious exceptions like the opt-out clause for HOTA etc. If you ask Muslims from elsewhere – they will tell you that there is NO secularism within Islam. In Singapore – MUIS and the Syariah Courts play an important role. They manage the affairs of the Muslim community. Not all secular laws are blindly applicable to Muslims.

Yes – a husband should not force himself on a tired wife. But then – a wife cannot deny sex for her husband without a valid excuse.

I have no doubts whatsoever that secular, marital rape laws should NOT apply to Muslim marriages.

Organised religion is not necessarily a rational thing – and indeed many aspects of religion defies logic. The business of religion is FAITH and not reason !

Regards
Dr Syed Alwi

Comment by Dr Syed Alwi

Dr Syed, you wrote, “But then – a wife cannot deny sex for her husband without a valid excuse.”

I don’t think the wife is a sexual property of her husband and needs to provide a valid excuse. Hopefully relationships don’t deteriorate to the point that a wife has to produce an MC!

Comment by Mun

let’s make parental (wifey’s parents) consent in writing a legal requirement!! in S’pore everything must have black-&-white you know! :P

then her parents ask who?

sex ok, but cannot molest, no kinky stuff, no lovebiting (so violent) & max 45 mins! :P

also can consider SAF style categorise according to age group:
cat X – age ** to **
Cat Y – age ** to **
cat Y1 – age ** to **
….
then (sexual) fitness levels:
PES A – everything no problem
PES B – most can do

PES F – sian manz :P

Comment by Joseph

LMAO!

Comment by rachelabsinthe

hi Rachel,

you are welcome. :)

i agree there will always be men who do not treat their wives with enough respect (that alone is so hard to agree on), but to go out of the way to criminalise husbands who may not fall into that category is not the way forward.

as for men changing over the years, surely women are not immune to change. its also possible they both changed…

in cases where the wife is to accuse the husband of rape with no accompanying evidence of physical abuse, how does one really differentiate rape cases apart from consexual sex? this is a really grey area that is open to abuse & i have yet to see any convincing rebuttal on this (in TOC), though i hope to.

i am not married nor have friends who are, but citing examples of stereotypical roles of wives at home does not take into account that household chores is but a private arrangement between any couple. i am not aware of any law that compels (by legal means) wives to do certain chores dogmatically.

there are husbands who may over the years succumb to stresses at work, get addicted to alcoholism, chain smoking, gambling, womanise, & so on… these are stresses that mostly developes over a period of time, so surely symptoms or telltale signs that something is upsetting the husband can be picked up. for a loving & respectful husband to change into a violent person isn’t going to happen in matter of days. more so for such a husband (assuming women do not chose essentric, beer boozing men with an unhealthy ego) to actually rape his wife.

i agree local laws should accept the concept of marital rape not amounting to it being treated as rape in general as it makes a mockery of marriage.

lastly, i would really like you to take your time to read through the both articles in TOC on this topic. to see the kind of points brought up to support this petition, based on sound reasoning alone. that is, if you have yet to read through the posts in previous article.

previous article’s link:

http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/08/in-spore-a-husband-can-force-his-wife-to-have-sex/

Comment by Joseph

Hey Joseph, I do not think that by repealing the section and by recognising the concept of marital rape is criminalising all husbands. It only protects women who may come to encounter such an ordeal in their marriages. Similarly, there should also be laws to protect men from being falsely accused. Yes that will be tricky but I am sure that others who are more knowledgeable than us can come up with a proposal. In a marriage, both men and women should be seen as equals and when something goes wrong, both should take the responsibility. However that is no excuse for men to get forceful and disrespectful. Same goes for women.

Have read the comments on that particular post on TOC for the past few days. Haven’t had the time to comment on there because I am focused on some other things so I decide to blog instead.

Anyway personally, I do not subscribe to the idea of marriage as I do not believe that one needs to legalise/ register love. Love is about how two individuals feel for each other and with that alone, they can exist as lifelong partners without having to go through ceremonies, registrations and such. So to me, marital rape simply means that the rape happens in a marriage. In fact rape is rape, doesn’t matter whether one is married or otherwise.

Now I don’t expect anyone to agree with me but it is good that people are sharing their perspectives and opinions here with me. Appreciate that alot! :)

Comment by rachelabsinthe

hey Rachel,

1)on trusting people who are more knowledgeeable to do the right thing (like impliment reasonable proposal, etc)- you got more faith than i do.
2)women are generally more skilled at being covert & subtle, so the kind of abuse would be harder to explain
3)without going through registeration how to queue up for 1st hand HDB units if both do not yet 35? lol… :)

nice to know you have actually taken time to read through all the posts. its quite an eyeful…

as for “I do not subscribe to the idea of marriage as I do not believe that one needs to legalise/ register love.”… i share your opinion on this as well! ;)

i do not support a petition, who knows if i marry a wife who will put me behind bars (worse than AWOL from NS) one day?! :?

Comment by Joseph

No need to get HDB flat lah, just pitch a tent at different parks and beaches everyday! LOL. Hahaa anyway I am not interested in owning a property anywhere, even though it may be just a humble HDB flat.

Anyway not that I have more faith in people coming up with reasonable proposals. I think before the proposal can become an implementation, there needs to be some sort of a majority agreement etc.

Because I believe in freedom of speech and expression as well as the right of all individuals to hold different opinions, I read, publish and try to reply to all comments (with the exception of spams). This is just my way of showing appreciation to those who bother to share their constructive criticisms and individual opinions.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

hey Rachel,

hope to read about you living in tent from local mass media. lol… :P i do yearn to own a place of my own however humble. is this not one of the basic human rights (home ownership) regardless of age, marital status, etc?… you do not mind being homeless but i mind!! lol… :P

the notion that majority agreement is flawed, simply because the majority can choose to sideline the interest of the minority. what if the majority chooses to “bulldoze” their way because they form a majority?

points that i do not agree with you:
1) for all rape cases, the relationship between the victim & the rapist does have an influence on the severity of punishment meted out. for example the relationship between a step/father & step/daughter.
2) to simply say “… but I am sure that others who are more knowledgeable than us can come up with a proposal.” shows how irresponsible you can be, if the petition is abused, can you claim there are things you vaguely know about (but insist on supporting this petition anyway)?
3) i’ll like to hear from you how to differentiate consensual sex between a couple & a case of rape that has no signs of physical abuse. with this grey area not clearly spelt out, how can you still suppport this petition?

freedom of speech & individual rights alone does not easily translate moral issues into legal issues.

Comment by Joseph

[...] aid with MP but faces difficulties – Senang Diri: Blue on Blue: Part 2 – Rachel Zeng’s blog: On marital rape [Thanks [...]

Pingback by The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 29 Sep 2009

[...] aid with MP but faces difficulties – Senang Diri: Blue on Blue: Part 2 – Rachel Zeng’s blog: On marital rape [Thanks Seelan] – The Useless Tree: William Safire and Singapore and Williams College [Recommended] [...]

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