Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Marriage - not entitlement to a woman's vagina!

Published:Thursday | October 30, 2014 | 10:00 AM

What empowers a man, or woman for that matter, to think and yap that when two people - in our case a man and woman - are legally wedded, the woman automatically loses citizenship of, and autonomy over her body? We assume that, as a signatory to this holy institution called marriage, a woman has willingly made a decision to relinquish her bodily integrity to her husband. Her marriage now strips her of the ability to consent to sex with her husband, since upon consummating the marriage, she has somehow become inept at knowing whether she is randy and/or would like to have sex at a particular time. Patriarchy then tells us this ineptness is confined only to marriage, because in a common-law or visiting sexual relationship, the woman is legally permitted to decide to have sex if she is, in fact, randy.

Marriage, as far as I know, is not a property licence, nor is a married woman an object to be manipulated, neither is she a sexual slave. Therefore, when a woman says 'I do', it should not be mistaken (by anyone) as an endowment to her vagina or personhood. Marriage is a symbolic demonstration of commitment of love. In some cases, people make a conscious decision to be legally wedded to satisfy religious, cultural and family expectations and/or take advantage of spousal benefits, but at no time an agreement to cede herself or any body part used for sexual pleasure to her husband.

the mischief of section 5

It behoves me that there is so much opposition about something as simple as recognising that rape is rape, and that regardless of one's marital status, non-consensual sex - whether vaginal, oral or anal - should be tolerated under no circumstance. A husband should not be able to rape his 'beloved' wife free from worry about being apprehended for committing a crime. I highly doubt this is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp.

I am appalled at the mischief created in Section 5 of the Sexual Offences Act. Did you know that this law allows any man who is married to your daughter/sister to forcefully have sex with her if she says 'no, not tonight baby'? Except in a few instances, the husband would not have committed a crime and it would therefore be foolish for your sister or daughter to report him. Let me share a few of those instances with you.

According to the law, 'a married woman could not be raped by her husband unless: they were separated as defined by the Matrimonial Causes Act; she had a written separation agreement with their husband; divorce proceedings had commenced; there was a protection order from the court in favour of the wife against the husband; or the husband, knowing he was infected with a sexually transmitted disease, forced his wife to have sexual intercourse with him', or uses physical assault or the threat of physical assault to force her to have sexual intercourse with him.

Section 5 of the Sexual Offences Act should be removed in its entirety to allow for forced sexual intercourse perpetrated against a woman in marriage to be recognised and criminalised as rape. Some of our Caribbean counterparts, namely Bermuda (since 1993), Trinidad and Tobago (since 2000) and Guyana (since 2010) have already brought 'their laws in line with common law [provisions] by providing no exemptions for rape carried out by a husband against his wife.' The law should protect the victim/ survivor of rape, not the perpetrator.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATION

Women: do you want to be routinely forced to have sex with your husband as long he demands it? Men: are you comfortable with denying your daughter or sister the right to say to her husband, 'no, not tonight baby'? Are you comfortable knowing that your daughter or sister has no recourse under the law if she says no?

No one should be comfortable knowing their family is in such a situation.

I encourage all Jamaicans to be concerned about the continued sexual abuse of our women and girls as well as males (which we hardly, if ever talk about), and the impunity perpetrators are fêted with. We all have a civic responsibility to protest for greater protection from sexual violence, harassment and other forms of abuse for all persons. This is the perfect time to encourage our legislators to make a bold statement to demonstrate our commitment as a nation to the protection and promotion of the human rights and dignity of every person without limitations.

Be on the right side of history; join the movement. Now is the time to tell your member of parliament that rape is rape - no matter the circumstance.

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.