I used to work at an organization where I was the youngest person and the immediate older person was in his late 40s. This was in 2015 when Donald Trump was running for the presidency and one of the issues that were raised was that his ex-wife claimed that he raped her. I was very vocal in my displeasure with Trump, when one of the men said (loudly), “how is it rape when she was his wife?” I was shocked, then I remembered where I was and I chose to ignore it.
So here I am now, about to make an effort to explain that there is something called Marital Rape, and it should be a crime.
Marriage, according to The Spruce, is a formal union and social and legal contract between two individuals that unites their lives legally, economically, and emotionally. The contractual marriage agreement usually implies that the couple has legal obligations to each other throughout their lives or until they decide to divorce. Being married also gives legitimacy to sexual relations within the marriage.
According to the constitution on rape, Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines ‘rape’ in the following words: “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape”
Can Rape Be Committed In Marriage?
The bride price is a vital aspect in many African cultures, without which marriages are considered incomplete. On the fixed date, the prospective husband’s family hands over items from a list sent by the bride’s family. This act confirms that she now belongs to the groom.
Some would interpret this to mean that she becomes his “property”, that he can have sex with when he desires. After all, he has paid for her. In this context, a husband is said to have paid for his wife and she does not have an opinion when it comes to sexual relations.
In other words, she cannot deny her husband sex. She cannot say No even if she is not in the mood. If he wants it and she is not in the mood, he has the right to take it forcefully. After all, she is his property and by virtue of the bride price and dowry, he can have his way anytime, whether she consents or not. Is this rape?
Marital rape is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is a form of partner rape, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.
Once widely unrecognized by law and society as a crime or wrongdoing, marital rape is now opposed by many societies around the world. It is repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized.
Still, in many countries, marital rape either remains outside the criminal law or is illegal but widely tolerated. Laws are rarely being enforced, due to factors ranging from the reluctance of authorities to pursue the crime to lack of public knowledge that forced sexual intercourse in marriage is illegal.
Marital rape is more widely experienced by women, though not exclusively. The reluctance to criminalize and prosecute marital rape has been attributed to traditional views of marriage, interpretations of religious doctrines, ideas about male and female sexuality, and to cultural expectations of subordination of a wife to her husband-views which continue to be common in many parts of the world.
Criminalization has occurred through various ways, including removal of statutory exemptions from the definitions of rape, judicial decisions, explicit legislative reference in statutory law preventing the use of marriage as a defense, or creating of a specific offense of marital rape. In many countries, it is still unclear whether marital rape is covered by the ordinary rape laws, but in some, it may be covered by general statutes prohibiting violence, such as assault and battery laws.
Most reported cases of marital rape in Nigeria are slow to be tackled, especially due to the country’s religious and cultural background.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
A Quranic injunction by Abu Hurayrah says: “If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses [and does not come], and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.”
Section 5 of the Matrimonial Causes Act in the Nigerian constitution states that: “marriage is voidable if either of the parties to the marriage at the time of marriage is incapable of consummating the marriage.”
In Northern Nigeria, the Penal Code defines rape in Section 281 (1) and in Section 282 (2), it is clearly stated that: “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape, if she has attained to puberty.”