PETALING JAYA: The Woman’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has dismissed the so-called “challenges” hampering the criminalisation of marital rape, saying it should not be used as an excuse to explain why forced sex during marriage cannot be recognised as a crime.
WAO advocacy manager Yu Ren Chung said this when commenting on a statement by DAP MP Teresa Kok that criminalising marital rape was a “challenge”.
Kok, who is on the Select Committee on the Review of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, said the term “marital rape” was difficult to place within the context of the law as it was difficult to prove.
Kok said that was why the act of a husband causing hurt to his wife with the purpose of soliciting sex was an offence under Section 375A of the Penal Code.
However Yu disagreed, saying most people missed the point altogether as they were too “hung up” with the term “marital rape”.
“We don’t need to create a new law that criminalises rape in a marriage. Section 375 of the Penal Code defines rape, but then adds an exception that states it is not rape if the act is committed by a husband against the wife.”
Yu said this gave husbands “permission” to rape their wives, which should not be the case.
This was also why the government did not need to establish marital rape as a new offence; all it had to do was remove the exception to the law, he said.
Yu also dismissed Kok’s argument on the difficulty of proof.
“If your friend to whom you’ve lent money steals from you, wouldn’t that be hard to prove? Couldn’t he say he was just borrowing the money? Yet, no one would think of decriminalising theft.
“Why is it that when it comes to violence against women, people are overly concerned about proof? Is it because they don’t think women are trustworthy?”
Yu pointed out that the punishment prescribed under Section 375A for husbands who hurt their wives for sex was much more lenient compared with the punishment for rape.
A person convicted of rape may be jailed for up to 20 years and whipped, while a husband found guilty of causing fear of death or hurt to his wife in order to have sex may be jailed for a maximum of five years.
“Additionally, rape can happen without hurt or fear of hurt – for instance through intoxication or other forms of coercion.”
More importantly, Yu said, the reluctance to criminalise marital rape would send out the wrong message in that husbands owned their wives’ bodies.
“We must understand that rape in a marriage doesn’t happen in isolation. It is often part of a pattern of domestic violence.
“In 2015 and last year, a third of the domestic violence survivors supported by WAO were sexually abused by their abusers.”
The refusal to criminalise marital rape, Yu said, would only empower the abusers to continue abusing their spouses.
WAO recently reiterated its call for the criminalisation of marital rape in a report released on International Women’s Day.
The report noted that a United Nations expert body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, had in 2006 recommended to the Malaysian government that marital rape be criminalised.