Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Garth Rattray | The incongruity of Jamaican rape

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 2:00 AM

I am not pushing or facilitating anyone's agenda, but we cannot legislate sexuality. How people feel and what they do privately is beyond our control.

As long as someone's sexual programming does not involve the participation of another human being who is incapable of having consensual sexual intercourse, what two consenting adults do in private is between them and their God. I won't dignify bestiality with a comment. Interestingly, though, there's a growing controversy regarding robots manufactured and programmed to give sexual pleasure to humans.

Our country is saddled with the impossible task of objectively redefining 'rape'. I am opposed to the currently accepted general definition because it employs the use of the word 'intercourse'. The dictionary definition is, 'Forced sexual intercourse; sexual assault; sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor. Rape may be heterosexual (involving members of opposite sexes) or homosexual (involving members of the same sex). Rape involves insertion of an erect penis or an inanimate object into the female vagina or the male anus. Legal definitions of rape may also include forced oral sex and other sexual acts.'

I take exception because sexual 'intercourse' suggests mutuality - 'lovemaking, making love, sex act, act of love, sexual relations, intimate relations, intimacy, coupling, mating, going to bed with someone, sleeping with someone'. Rape has nothing to do with love or intimate relations. It's a frightfully brutal act of unspeakable violence and the demonstration of power over another, and should be on par with homicide.

In Jamaica, our definition of rape fails to mention anal or oral penetration. It is constrained by a law dating back to January 1, 1864 - that was not very long after slavery was officially abolished. That was also the year before the Morant Bay Rebellion and about 80 years before full universal adult suffrage. That is 153 years (more than six generations) ago.

 

RESOUNDING DENIAL

 

The wording of the law betrays blatant naivety or resounding denial of human sexual practices. It erroneously assumes that peno-anal intercourse only occurs between homosexual males. That is very far from what obtains in reality. It also makes no mention of other orifices used during sexual intercourse.

Even our 'modern' Sexual Offences Act skilfully uses wording that does not mention 'insertion' of the penis into the anus. It confines 'sexual intercourse' as the penetration of the vagina of one person by the penis of another person and 'rape' as a man having sexual intercourse with a woman under certain specified circumstances.

The Church is perfectly right to adhere to its religious beliefs, but society has come out of the closet. The reality is that individuals have been engaged in sexual practices that do not conform to what most people choose to view as 'normal'.

Therein lies the dilemma in Jamaica. Since peno-anal 'sex' is so illegal that it cannot exist, peno-anal rape (of a male or a female) also cannot exist. As some have painstakingly pointed out, the range of possible punishment for rape and for grievous sexual assault are very different. So, if an offender forces his penis inside a female's vagina, he will be charged for rape and risks extremely long incarceration.

But, if he forces his penis inside her anus/rectum (which must be far more brutal, painful, degrading, far more physically dangerous, far more likely to transmit any disease, and far more likely to cause permanent psychological damage/devastation), he could receive a far lighter sentence!

Seems to me that the law gives despicable sexual predators the green light to force their victims into anal and/or oral penetration. The suggestion to equate 'rape' (from the Latin, rapere - to seize or take by force all pride, privacy, dignity, self-determination and sometimes, sanity) and 'grievous sexual assault' significantly diminishes the horror and trauma experienced by rape victims and is terribly unfair to them. The language and, therefore, psychological impact of 'rape' and 'sexual assault' are vastly different.

Is this what we want? Young and old women and men, boys and girls violated by dangerous, sadistic, perverted, cruel monsters, who could receive relatively light sentences simply because they choose to torture and mercilessly violate their victims by forcefully penetrating their mouths, anus/rectum? Or do we need to separate Church from State?

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.