Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Shield women absolutely from marital rape

Published:Friday | October 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: "... 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." - Hale, Matthew, Sir (1800) 'Historia Placitorum Coronae History of the Pleas of the Crown'.

The above extract is consistent with the current state of Jamaican law where it does not recognise the criminal offence of marital rape, except in a few defined circumstances, for example during a period of separation.

The reality that a husband cannot be prosecuted for raping his wife (in most cases) has outraged me as a young woman, a friend of a bride-to-be, and someone's future wife.

As a woman, the right to say no should not be narrowly defined for me. My right to say no, whether it is to a stranger, someone I know or my partner/husband, should be respected and protected absolutely under Jamaican law.

The legislature should regard the protection of the physical integrity of a woman as a priority that admits of no exceptions. There needs to be a decisive move to bring the legislation up to date, bringing an end to circuitous debates.

A strong message needs to be sent. How can we expect our mothers, sisters and friends to build and nurture the future of Jamaica when a law based on 19th-century chauvinist principles remains in force?


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