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Why it’s hard to make marital rape a crime

 | March 12, 2017

Teresa Kok explains how a select committee went around the difficulty in its review of the law.

teresa-kok-maritalrapePETALING JAYA: Seputeh MP Teresa Kok has told those calling for the criminalisation of marital rape that it is an uphill battle.

She said she found this out when she was in the Select Committee on the Review of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.

“We found it rather difficult to put the term marital rape inside the law,” she said. “That’s why it is instead noted that the act of a husband causing hurt to his wife with the purpose of soliciting sex is an offence under Section 375A of the Penal Code.”

She also said it would be difficult to prove marital rape.

“How are you going to prove that it is marital rape? This is very difficult to describe and argue in court and that’s why we put it the way it is under 375A, where the jail term can come up to five years. In a way it covers incidents of violence, including marital rape.”

Kok was responding to calls by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) for the criminalisation of marital rape.

Speaking to FMT, she said using the term “marital rape” became an issue for several other reasons.

“If you want to translate it into the Malay language, for example, you have to face the mullahs and explain to them what exactly you mean by marital rape.”

She noted that the term “marital rape” was usually used in discussions of issues in which the crux of the problem was the difficulty for women to divorce their husbands. She said this was something that should be addressed.

“When you say your husband has raped you, it basically means that your marriage is gone. But there are certain reasons that make it difficult to divorce your husband.

“In many cases involving the shariah courts, many mothers will lose custody of their children if they divorce their husbands. That makes a lot of women decide it is better to live in fear and oppression under their violent husbands than to lose their children.”

Kok commended efforts made by women’s rights organisations as well as the media in highlighting issues of domestic violence.

“I’m glad that WAO has continued raising issues faced by women and that FMT is giving a lot of coverage,” she said.

“The media and NGOs must continue to work together and highlight problems faced by women because there are still many cases of domestic violence and abuse.”

In a WAO report released on International Women’s Day on March 8, the NGO said rape was a crime even if it occurred in a marriage.

The report noted that the United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had, since 2006, been asking the Malaysian government to criminalise marital rape.

WAO repeats call to criminalise marital rape

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