Sun | Jan 20, 2019

The Bible allows for marital rape

Published:Sunday | November 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ian Boyne

Ian Boyne

Parliament is examining the Sexual Offences Act to possibly change it to allow for a woman to charge her husband with rape. To many Jamaican men - and women, too - this shows just how idle our politicians are!

Many see this as a joke. How could anybody be so ridiculous to talk about marital rape? How can a man rape his own wife? Damn nonsense! But 52 countries expressly criminalise marital rape and about 100 countries define rape in a way that does not exclude it taking place within marriage. There are those lobbying for Jamaica to join its Caribbean neighbours, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, in giving women the right to have their husbands charged with rape.

Today, a married woman, under the Sexual Offences Act, can only allege husband rape under certain limited circumstances: if she is separated from her husband or are living separately; if there is already a court order against the husband for non-cohabitation; if the husband is out of the matrimonial home; or if he knows he has a sexually transmitted disease and forces his wife to have sex with him.

But if you are living with your wife 'good, good', she can't ask the police to arrest you for rape, no matter how much you force it on her. The right that a single woman has to lay charges for non-consensual sex is taken away from the married woman. As Dionne Jackson Miller quotes English legal scholar Sir Matthew Hale as saying in 1736 (and these views are still current): "But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract."

In what was published as Letter of the Day as recently as November 6, 'Marital rape: call it something else', Xavier Newton-Bryant opined: "Simply put, rape is having sex with someone without their consent. So then ... how can one rape one's wife who had, in fact, given consent? When was consent given? Logic would lead me to believe that consent was given for sex at the point where the marriage ceremony is complete and the necessary legal documents signed."

attack on Christian principles

She - yes, she - continues: "So if sex is a normal part of marriage and the woman had, in effect, given consent upon marrying the man - and both are, in fact, still in the union, how can it be rape?" This seems compellingly logical and irrefutable to many, if not most Jamaicans. It must be only some Satanic, God-denying, bra-burning feminists and other atheists who would come up with a hare-brained idea like marital rape! God help us. In fact, that was exactly the position taken by 'Apostle' Steve Lyston in a recent Monday Gleaner column of his titled tendentiously, 'Marital rape: a blatant attack on Christian principles'.

In that incendiary column, Apostle Steve thunders: "There is no such thing as marital rape and it is a blatant attack on Christian principles. There are innumerable attacks coming against marriage, and it is all a plan to destroy the Christian principle. It is imperative for Christians to stand and push back any destructive elements. There are all manner of systems and groups in place to successfully divide the family and break up marriages ... ." Very soon, Apostle Steve might be organising a big march on Half-Way Tree to defend men's inalienable right to their wives' vaginas! This marital rape view must be part of the 'homosexual agenda', I imagine.

I beg to differ with Apostle Steve, though I will show I am in full agreement with Apostle Paul.

Another conservative Christian, Theodore Beale, in his blog as Vox Day, writes: "Anyone with a basic grasp of logic who thinks about the subject of 'marital rape' for more than 10 seconds will quickly realise that marriage grants consent on an ongoing basis ... . The fact that some lawless governments in the decadent, demographically dying West presently call some forms of sex between wife and husband as 'rape' does not transform marital sex into rape ... ." He further wrote: "The concept of marital rape is not merely an oxymoron. It is an attack on the institution of marriage and ... on the core foundation of human civilisation itself." That's serious.

It is conservative Christians like Steve Lyston and Theodore Beale who discredit Christianity in the eyes of rational, thinking people. And many secularists carelessly assume that the Bible is complicit in these Christians' gender bias. It is not. Lyston quotes 1 Corinthians 7, but he misunderstands it. Journalist George Davis, one morning on his show, even mixed up verse for chapter in quoting that text, too, drawing on the Bible to support his prejudice. Stick to public affairs, my friend, George, and leave theological exegesis alone.

1 Corinthians 7, contrary to feminists and secularists, does not privilege the man's right over the woman's body, but teaches mutual submission and mutual self-giving. Notice how it starts (Verse 3): "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights ... ." So the husband must acknowledge his wife's right to sex and to his giving in to her sexual desire. "And likewise, the wife to her husband." This is no one-sided thing, reflecting patriarchal power, as some feminists misguidedly caricature biblical teaching. Verse 4 proclaims that neither wife nor husband has any authority over her or his body, teaching the principle of mutual giving and mutual, selfless devotion to each other.

male sexual power

Refraining from sex is by mutual agreement, and there is nothing that says if there is no agreement, the husband has the right to take it forcibly. This Corinthians text says nothing of male sexual power over the wife. Nothing. Both Christian fundamentalists and secular feminists need to understand this.

This text is about mutual regard, mutual honour, each looking out for the other and none withholding sex or using it as a weapon or an instrument of negotiation. Sex is an expression of love in marriage. Forced sex is anathema to that. Forced sex violates that. Forced sex - rape - is condemned by that scripture. Yes, a man can rape his wife, and the Bible does not permit that!

Ephesians 5 also beautifully enunciates husband-wife love and self-giving. The husband is admonished to love his wife as his own flesh. A man who loves his wife that way will control himself when she says no, rather than raping her. A good husband puts his wife's needs ahead of his own. If she is withholding sex because there is a problem, he will seek to find the source of her dissatisfaction and deal with that, rather than use violence to 'solve' it.

There is a rather important text in Exodus 21 that would shock feminists and secularists who assert that the Bible privileges men's sexual rights over women's sexual rights. Exodus 21: 10 says that in that polygamous culture, if a man took another wife, he is not allowed to deprive his first wife of her sexual rights. This is an important text, for it shatters the myth that women had no sexual rights and that only men were so privileged. And that is Old Testament.

There is the fear that women might maliciously and frivolously pull their husbands before the courts for rape. But in her brilliant blog on the issue of marital rape, Dionne Jackson Miller says poignantly, "If a husband is really worried that his wife will report him for rape, I suggest that it is not the criminalisation of the offence that will damage their relationship. That relationship is already damaged." As she goes on further to say, "We do not hesitate to criminalise rape because a woman might falsely accuse her partner, acquaintance or a passing stranger."

The issue is not just one of women's rights. It is one of individual rights and our respect for autonomy. A wife does not relinquish her individuality and individual rights simply because she is married. Her rights are inviolable. Even so-called progressive and enlightened men have a hard time accepting that if we men would learn to truly love our wives and honour them, we would have little fear about any marital rape law.

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who works with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to and