Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Careful on marital rape

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Devon Dick

There is a move to legislate 'marital rape'; the intent is to ensure that a wife's 'no' is respected by the husband. Every sexual intercourse between a husband and wife must be with the wife's consent, otherwise it becomes a crime.

Legislators should be careful on 'marital rape', not because it is anathema for government, on behalf of the people, to be involved in what happens in the bedroom, but because there is another way to handle this issue; problems with consensual sex in marriage and what is the meaning and purpose of marriage.

The traditional belief is that consummation by sexual intercourse is the final act in marriage and is not a public act like the wedding ceremony but personal between husband and wife. A wedding can be annulled based on no sexual coitus. This understanding makes sexual intercourse of prime importance in marriage.


Marriage is not merely a legal contract, but the couple becomes one flesh; united souls and oneness of mind on agreed plans. Being joined as one is dramatically demonstrated through the sex act. One flesh is about a couple coming together to make a difference in each other's life and the life of the community.

Furthermore, there is still merit in the biblical view that "The husband should fulfil 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." (1 Corinthians 7: 3-5). There is implied a duty to sexually satisfy each other. More importantly, this passage makes sexual intercourse a matter for mutual consent and not one side alone making the decision.

Many persons misunderstand the Bible, which speaks about the man as the head of the house, to mean man is the master. Rather, it is about the responsibility of the husband in the marriage and not about rank in the marriage. The husband is not even first among equals, but the equal partner to the wife and decision making is mutual and the husband has the responsibility to ensure sex is by mutual consent. It is not for one partner to withhold sex without reason, and it has to be for an agreed time.


Marriage can be likened to a couple signing a blank cheque. Therefore, even if one partner says no to a particular financial transaction and a debt is created, the debt belongs to the married couple. In fact, a prenuptial agreement is contrary to the spirit of marriage as between equals and an institution of complete trust and self-giving.

The analogy of marriage to a business is with husband and wife each having 50 per cent of shares. This can lead to gridlock, but it means that each has equal say, and for a proper functioning, there has to be mutual agreement.

It must be understood also that married people play sex games wherein 'no' can be a signal to be pursued. It could also be a challenge to put the other person in the mood for coitus. Furthermore, is there a statute of limitation? How do you determine in a marriage about 'no' when it is one person's word against another and the issue is not force and it is in the matrimonial home?

Finally, when there is sexual abuse in marriage, it is better to make it a matter of divorce in the Family Court, which is easy and not a criminal matter.

The Reverend Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@