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Gov’t to outlaw spousal rape

Published:Thursday | November 7, 2019 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Delroy Chuck

Jamaica will “very shortly” change a law that will allow spouses, including those who are married, to be charged for raping their partners.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has announced that the Government plans to amend the Sexual Offences Act “so that rape can occur outside and inside a marriage”.

“In marriage, rape will now be non-consensual sex,” Chuck declared in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

He acknowledged that the common law has upheld the position that rape could not be committed in a marriage. “But now, legislation will overturn that common-law position,” he asserted.

The proposal had the full endorsement of Gender Affairs Minister Olivia Grange, who cited a 2016 women’s health survey which, according to her, found that 31.4 per cent of women believe that a wife is obligated to have sex with her husband whenever he wants.

“Mr Speaker, we are moving to end that, and it’s gender neutral, so the men don’t have to worry,” Grange said.

“I am in full support of the proposal to amend the law to make it quite clear that no means no even in a marriage,” Grange said.

“The man can say no, too,” she quickly added, in response to playful questions from her colleague minister and members of the Opposition.

Jamaican law does not acknowledge the concept of forcible sex or penetration by a woman as rape.

Chuck and Grange, two senior members of the Cabinet, were speaking during a debate on the report of a special parliamentary committee that reviewed the Sexual Offences Act and three companion bits of legislation, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act.

Lawmakers voted to accept the report.

Grange disclosed, too, that arising from the report, the Holness administration plans to widen the category of individuals who can apply for a protection order on behalf of victims of abuse.

In addition, she said that the intention is to hike the fines for persons who violate an order of protection from $10,000 to $500,000. “I believe this will serve as an effective deterrent,” Grange added.

She revealed that one in every four women in Jamaica has experienced physical violence by a male partner. Further, she said one in every five women reported being sexually abused before reaching 18 years old and that half of the women who experience abuse say they have never left that environment.

The parliamentary committee also recommended that it should be a criminal offence for individuals to “knowingly” infect a partner with a sexually transmitted infection and that the offence of stalking be added to the books.