The reality of ‘marital rape’

Can a husband rape his wife? Or can a wife deny her husband sex? “With my body, I will honour you…” These are words usually said at the holiest place—the altar. Words said in love and to the loved. But years later, a husband uses the same words to defend his selfish lust.
rape in marriage is condemned. (Net photo)
rape in marriage is condemned. (Net photo)

Can a husband rape his wife? Or can a wife deny her husband sex?

“With my body, I will honour you…”
These are words usually said at the holiest place—the altar. Words said in love and to the loved. But years later, a husband uses the same words to defend his selfish lust.

This is when loving husbands turn into molesters. It’s saddening to think that it’s at this beautiful altar that some women lose their rights over their own bodies. Because it is here that you make the promise of forever, a ‘forever’ at the mercy of someone else’s hands.

Rape is not about sex. It’s about power and control. The patriarchal nature of our society has meant that women are expected to behave in a certain manner especially if they are married, their primary role is to please their husband sexually, at whatever cost, be it their health or emotional well being.

The advent of the HIV/Aids pandemic has however resulted in society reviewing sexual relations even amongst married couples. The Government of Rwanda in the Gender Violence Act for instance defines and outlaws marital rape.

The Rwandan constitution in Article 27 recognises the family, which is the natural foundation of Rwandan society and is protected by the State.

The Rwandan State has put in place appropriate legislation and institutions for the protection of the family and the mother and child in particular in order to ensure that the family flourishes.

This is a clear indication that women are protected under law and that they have a right to bring up their children without any violence, even from their husbands.

Wikipedia defines marital rape as non-consensual sexual assault in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse.
“My husband raped me,” a woman says in a church gathering, much to the surprise of many in the audience. Rape in marriage is simply unheard of. It is presumed impossible between couples. This is however a wrong assumption.

Anytime a woman says no to her husband and he still goes on to force her then that’s rape. Paul Ruzindana has been married to his wife for the last one year. He reckons that rape in marriage is a myth.

“Why would anyone rape their wife when they are always there with them, and if it happened, I don’t think it should be called rape. There are times I have had to convince my wife to be intimate with me. I don’t think that constitutes rape,” he says.

Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and the victim. It can be a total stranger or a husband.
“I believe it is possible for a husband to rape a wife. I have heard my friends complain about abuse by their husbands.

These men do not know how to take a no and so they force their way with their wives. This is very wrong but its happening,” says Alice a member of staff at a local university.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he urged married couples to honour each other with their bodies.

This part of scripture has been used by husbands to coerce their wives to consent to intimacy calling it their God given right. I would like to believe that what Paul meant was couples should love and respect each other in all essence of their marriage. It is in this same book that Paul called the Corinthians to love each other patiently and without demands or record of wrongs.

Hence not even Christians should justify raping their wives because in the end it’s just rape.

Marriage is a contract based on mutual love, consideration and respect. Both partners have a right to their own body, and while consideration for each person’s sexual needs is normal, forced sexual acts are not.

They aren’t an expression of love.
Annette Mukabahinda a marriage counsellor in a local church, explains that many women are silently suffering at the hand of their husbands.

She points out that: “Marriage is a contract based on mutual love, consideration and respect. Both partners have a right to their own body, and while consideration for each person’s sexual needs is normal, forced sexual acts are not. They aren’t an expression of love.”

Historically, it is culturally expected of women that once they are married, they can’t deny their husbands sex. It is seen as a wifely duty to have sex whenever it is demanded. Hence when these women are raped they take on the guilt because they may have said no, and they think that’s a sign of a bad wife. Men who rape their partners are not being overpowered by testosterone, but by their need to control and be in charge.

When their wives say no, they feel that their alleged power position is being threatened. Therefore, to show their authority in marriage, they demand and force themselves on their wives. This is not only unlawful but hurtful.

“When it is the person you have entrusted your life to who rapes you, it isn’t just physical or sexual assault, it is a betrayal of your marriage, of your person, of your trust,” says Dr. Barrington H. Brennen—a marriage counsellor in the United States.

For centuries, husbands around the world have been granted marital exemption to the crime of rape. It was not until recently that the UN Declaration on human Rights (1993) stated rape in marriage as a crime against humanity.

If marital sex is based on coercion rather than mutual desire where does that leave women? If their husbands are allowed to purposefully betrayal and disrespect them then what happens to the institution of marriage.

A man and his wife are supposed to have good will toward one another and be kind to each other. For a marriage to flourish women have to be respected and honoured. It is because they expected this when they made the promise of for always.

pgathoni@gmail.com

 

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