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Don't trouble marriage with tougher rape laws, church groups warn

Published:Wednesday | June 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Ignoring a priest's charge that "Parliament does not meet to keep church", six church groups and a lobby have warned lawmakers not to hurt the 'sanctity' of marriage by imposing tougher marital rape laws.

Among the churches are the Jamaica Union of Seventh-Day Adventists and the Church of God of Jamaica - two of the fastest-growing Christian denominations in the country.

The Jamaica Evangelical Alliance, Independent Churches, the Jamaica Pentecostal Union, the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, and the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society are the others.

A representative, Philippa Davies, yesterday told a parliamentary committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and related laws 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."


Give more protection to women


That contribution came after Anglican priest Sean Major-Campbell, appearing as a human rights advocate, urged the committee to redefine marital rape to give more protection "in a context where many women are victims of intimate-partner violence and sexual violence in particular".

Jamaicans for Justice, which also appeared, recommended that the current marital rape provisions in the law be repealed and that the established law governing rape be applied to marital cases. The current marital rape provision stipulates circumstances under which rape can occur such as if there was separation.

The church groups, however, insisted that the Parliament must be careful about any action it takes because the current law is "adequate", and "to go further, interferes with the particular norms and sanctity of marriage and will damage its stability".

'There are remedies abuse in marriage'

Philippa Davies noted that the criminal law has remedies to deal with abuse in marriage even as she admitted that it is not unreasonable to contemplate a husband "using force to exact sex".

However, according to JFJ's Rodje Malcolm: "In that strain of Christianity, they (church groups) may view marriage to be an eternal granting of consent that has to be withdrawn. But not all Jamaicans are of the view that if you get married, you give perpetual, unchanging consent to sexual activity.

"And how would one demonstrate the withdrawal?"

Davies said that it would be difficult because the courts would "need certainty and accuracy" on when the consent was revoked.

But she insisted that there are remedies. "If a man forces his wife to have sexual intercourse, she can resort to the courts under Section 4 of the Domestic Violence Act for a protection order."