'Speak up' Advocacy group demands clear statement from church on marital rape
Women's rights group, Tambourine Army (TA), is demanding six Jamaican church groups, including the Jamaica Union of Seventh-Day Adventists tell the country clearly whether each of them is in support of the rape of women in marriage.
TA says clarity is needed after a representative last week told a parliamentary committee reviewing Jamaica's sex laws that marriage "presumes consent" and not to strengthen the current legislation on marital rape.
That law considers rape in marriage if the husband and wife are separated but some advocacy groups want it scrapped and the established rape law applied.
"This is a serious indictment on the group of churches who made their presentation before the committee and amounts to the church supporting the rape of married women,” TA said in a statement released Sunday.
Philippa Davies revealed the position of the six church groups - the Jamaica Union of Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of God of Jamaica, the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance, Independent
Churches, the Jamaica Pentecostal Union, the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches.
The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society also joined.
Although admitting that it is not "unreasonable" to contemplate a husband "using force to exact sex", Davies asserted that “marriage presumes consent for sex by both parties".
"This is why," she added, "rape in marriage, that is non-consensual sex, is conceptually challenging because of the inherent presumption of consent." Strengthening the current marital rape law, she insisted would interfere with the “sanctity” of marriage.
Tambourine Army says such a position is "dangerous" and ignores the reality of intimate partner violence which, it adds, sometimes cost women their lives while shielding perpetrators.
"The church clearly does not understand the difference between rape and sex. Rape is the absence of consent and is located in the use or misuse of power. Sex requires consent,” the group said.
It added: "If there is no consent, there is no sex; it is rape, within or external to wedlock."
United Nations statistics for 2015 show that one in three women experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. It estimated also that 14-38 per cent of women experienced intimate partner violence at least once.