Some lawyers are of the opinion the proving lack of consent where there are accusations of marital rape will be a difficult matter due to the nature of both marriage and consent itself.
This issue has arisen recently because of proposed changes to the penal code, including the abolition of immunity for cases of marital rape.
Groups from both the legal and women’s rights communities have applauded this proposal.
However, many lawyers feel that this issue is not cut and dried. Criminal lawyer Ramesh Tiwary says that defining what consent actually is and how explicit that consent must be, is complicated. “If you had a continuing and lengthy relationship like a marriage, I think you’ll have greater complications. Are you supposed to get consent from your wife every time?”
Rajan Supramaniam, the managing director of Hilborne Law says that sexual intimacy complicates consent in marital relations. “Whatever transpired is very private between them and that makes it difficult to find the truth.”
According to the head of the criminal department at Quahe Woo and Palmer, Sunil Sudheesan, “It’s anybody’s say as to whether there was consent or not if there are no injuries,” and so police look for signs such as force in order as determinants of marital rape.
The executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), Corinna Lim, agrees that proving marital rape may be difficult, but that incidents of domestic violence could corroborate it. “Timely medical examination, witness testimony, eyewitnesses before or after the assault, secondary witnesses and possible admission by perpetrator on texts can all help to secure conviction like any other sexual assault case.”
And the difficulty of finding proof does not mean that a crime can be ignored.
Many women choose not to report marital rape because of the stigma involved, and some victims do not believe that the law is on their side, says family therapist Evonne Lek.
Under the present law, a man could be convicted of marital rape under circumstances such as if he and his wife have been living separately or if the wife has filed for a personal protection order (PPO), separation or divorce before the alleged offence.
Rajan Chettiar, a family lawyer, says that in ten percent of the cases presented to him, there has been forced sexual contact from the husband.
“This is usually raised by the female client when she wishes to file for divorce. We will use this fact as an example of the husband’s unreasonable behaviour towards the wife, which is a reason to file for divorce under the Women’s Charter.”
Should the immunity for marital rape be completely removed, there will certainly be changes, perhaps even some women not coming forward, since a criminal case would have severe implications on the husband, including income loss, which would affect the whole family.
Ms. Lim from AWARE believes that the abolition of immunity for marital rape should be accompanied by an education campaign on “sexual violence to dispel traditional gender roles and victim-blaming myths.”
Many netizens seem to agree with the lawyers and even had questions of their own.
Others voiced their support for the proposed amendments
Some thought it may be time to revise the Women’s Charter
Others believe that cases of marital rape showed that there is something wrong in the relationship
One commenter tried to get to the bottom line of the issue
Others tried to make light of it, however