Make marital rape a criminal offence, Putrajaya told

Women’s groups have called for the removal of husbands’ immunity from rape charges.

PETALING JAYA: Women’s rights groups have urged the government to outlaw marital rape and revamp what they called “outdated” laws.

Speaking to FMT, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) said there is a pressing need to amend the law and close all possible loopholes.

“Yes, there was an amendment to the Section 377CA of the Penal Code, but there are still areas to improve in the rape laws, such as recognising marital rape,” WAO deputy executive director Yu Ren Chung said.

Yu said Section 375 of the Penal Code currently exempts husbands who raped their wives from the offence.

“The exception sends a wrong message – that sexual assault within marriage is not serious. We must remove husbands’ immunity for raping their wives,” Yu said.

Yu Ren Chung of the Women’s Aid Organisation.

“The vast majority of countries do not give this exemption to husbands. In this regard Malaysia seems to be stuck in some dark age,’’ he said adding that rape laws should also be gender neutral so that all rape survivors can receive justice and remedies under the law.

Association of Women Lawyers former president Goh Siu Lin, meanwhile, voiced disappointment over the regressive stance taken by the government in refusing to criminalise marital rape.

Although the federal government had changed hands three times within the last five years, there is still much progress that needs to be made regarding marital rape.

Goh said the retention of the exception under Section 375 of the Penal Code, means that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife without consent, is not considered rape in Malaysia.

Goh Siu Lin of the Association of Women Lawyers.

Goh said Section 375A of the Penal Code makes it a crime for a man to cause hurt or fear of death or hurt to a woman in order to have sexual intercourse with her and shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to five years.

She said the penalty of a maximum five years of imprisonment is too lenient compared to the rape punishment, which provides for a maximum jail term of 20 years.

“The lack of consent to the sexual act is the essence of rape, regardless of whether it is between a husband and wife.

“The mild punishment for causing hurt sends a wrong message and neutralises the deterrent effect of the law,” she told FMT.

She also questioned the inconsistencies in the statutory rape laws, arguing that child brides need equal protection against rape.

“It is an anomaly to punish perpetrators for statutory rape but somehow husbands of child wives are able to escape from it.”