15th October, 2013
Marital rape is a neglected topic. Until recently, spousal exemption licensed rape in marriage. The spousal exemption saw the birth of the rape immunity law. This law fueled marital rape by allowing men to perceive women as the possessions and passive objects of their husband’s desires. The spousal exemption was an extension of the historic dominance of men over women. The law gave male power over wives institutional legitimacy. As a result, the law on sexual assault was only significant when it was involving intercourse out of marriage.
However, the wake of human rights activism in the 1980s and early 1990s saw the abolishment of spousal exemption within the legislation of some countries or states. While lawyers and legislators debate on the issue, those in positions best suited to understand this form of intimate violence remain silent. It is difficult to assess incidences of marital rape since not all women coerced into sex perceive it as rape. The greatest concern to most legal practitioners is how exactly rape or absence of consent should be defined. Nonetheless, public and professional awareness on the existence of marital rape is growing. The slowly accumulating evidence suggests that rape in marriage is not a rare crime; it is a persistent problem in most marriages. The traditional assumption that taking marital vows make women lose control over their bodies or sexuality is both morally and legally unacceptable. Judicial transformations and the consequential legal changes prohibit the exploitation of and dominance over wives by their husbands. In line with United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3 and 6, women will no longer suffer in silence due to male dominance. In essence, any man who uses force or threat to obtain sexual favor from his wife is liable to prosecution in a court of law.
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