Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Voices in favour of marital rape

Marital rape is still legal in the Bahamas, and now there is legislation being proposed that would make marital rape a crime, overturning the current system in which consent to sexual intercourse is presumed in a legal marriage. "Under current Bahamian law, a man can be charged with raping his wife only if the two are in divorce proceedings or living apart."

Most news articles on the story begin thus:
Lawmakers are debating a bill that would make marital rape a crime in the Bahamas...

And even though I'm aware that each piece of legislation has its process, I'm forced to wonder what the opponents of this bill could possibly have to say. But I don't have to look far:
The bill already has caused debate on radio talk shows, with some islanders saying women could file false rape charges as leverage for alimony, child support or custody. Others have said the bill contradicts traditional Christian values.

Once again, women are cast as self-serving Jezebels who abuse the legal system in order to manipulate men. Are we still perpetuating this myth that women will easily subject themselves to rape trials in order to 'get even'? Especially when we know that often, women are made victims a second time by the indignity of some of our court proceedings and the victim-blaming found both within the court and in popular discourse? False charges of rape are sometimes made, as is the case with other crimes, but this is not nearly as common a problem as people seem so eager to believe. And in any event, this is the role of due judicial process: to uncover the truth. Are the opponents of this bill suggesting that we leave thousands of women unprotected from sexual violence on the off chance that some woman gets pissed off and tells a lie? Question marks abound in this paragraph, because i am confused.

And the opposition to the bill on the grounds that it contradicts traditional Christian values just makes me weary. Perhaps if your Christian values allow a man to rape his wife, they have no place in law or society.

I'm also a bit concerned by this:
The proposed law would allow a judge to decide the penalty for marital rape. People currently convicted of rape face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Because surely the legislation must include some sentencing guidance for presiding judges. The law fairly loses its teeth if someone can be charged with raping a partner and then sentenced to six months community service. If rape in a marriage really is rape, then why the need to go softer on the sentencing? I'd say this is one to keep our eyes on, because the mere existence of legislation does not in itself translate to fair protection under the law.

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