MY husband returned home at 2.00am in the night drunk. I had spent the whole day in bed not feeling well. When he entered the bedroom, he asked me for his food which I gave him and went back to sleep.
After eating he jumped into bed and wanted to have sex with me but I told him I was sick and not in position. He threatened me and hurled insults at me saying he paid bride price and can do whatever he wants with me. He ended up forcing me to have sex with him,” narrates 34-year-old Dorah who has been married for 7 years.
Despite what happened to her, when asked if she reported the matter to police, Dorah stares with shock.”How can I tell the world that my own husband raped me? Where would I sleep after reporting him to police? I prefer to keep quiet and preserve my marriage than report him and he chases me out of his home,” Dorah says.
Like Dorah many women are silently suffering the night mare of marital rape but fear to come out of the closet and speak out. Indeed this state of affairs corresponds with data at the Rwanda Police.
According to the Rwanda Police, no case of marital rape has been reported over the last one year, yet women activists say marital rape is a big problem in the country. However, Rwanda Women Network registered five cases of marital rape in 2013.
Marital rape also known as spousal rape is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is a form of domestic violence and abuse. It can be equally, or even more, emotionally and physically damaging than rape by a stranger.
Legendary singer Tina Turner is arguably the most popular victim of abusive marriage in which her husband, Ike Turner, repeatedly beat and raped her. She later divorced him. In extreme cases, some men force their wives into having sex a few days after childbirth, putting them at risk of serious health complications.
What women organisations say?
Christine Tuyisenge, the Executive Secretary of the National Women Council says reporting marital rape is a big challenge for the victims. She says it would require a witness to prove marital rape, which is not possible since the act is done by two people in the privacy of their bedroom.
“We sensitise women about the dangers and challenges that come with Gender Based Violence (GBV); we also inform the women that marital rape is another form of violence. It’s very difficult to get evidence of marital rape because it’s hard to prove that your husband raped you unless there is someone else to prove so. It is a crime that is hard to investigate so the victims end up not reporting it,” Tuyisenge explains.
She further says that although marital rape is a result of probably lack of communication and limited sex education amongst spouses, the National Women Council has not also received any case of marital rape.
She says: “Some Cultural barriers hinder women from reporting marital rape. Sex talk is still considered a taboo in Rwandan culture, thus reporting that a spouse raped you would be very hard. I don’t have facts to base on regarding the situation of marital rape in Rwanda but we always educate the women that if it happens, they should report to police immediately.”
However, according to Annette Mukiga, the Programmes Officer at Rwanda Women Network, in 2013 they received five cases of marital rape.
“With some of these cases, the women come in to report other forms of violence but it’s the people that receive them that classify them into marital rape after listening to their stories. Many of these women are scared to say their spouses raped them,” Mukiga explains.
Rwanda Women Network is in charge of collecting and compiling gender based violence cases in Nyarugenge and Gasabo Districts.
Counselors take on marital rape
Pastor Maurice Klebert Rukimbira of St Etienne Anglican Church and a professional counselor on marital matters says pre-marital counseling can help adress marital rape.
“I have never received an individual case of marital rape as a counselor but with group therapy or when we meet with different couples, they talk about marital rape. But it’s raised as something they heard about. But we always educate couples on sexual related issues,” says Pastor Rukimbira
He also advises that dialogue amongst couples should be promoted so as to tackle the issue of marital rape.
He adds: “Unfortunately marital rape is not as easily reported because some people think that women automatically give up sexual rights as soon as they get married. Many times, marital rape follows physical and emotional abuse.”
He also says that churches should emphasise the issue of the dangers that come with marital rape during pre- marital counseling for couples to know that they both have to consent on matters of sex even when they are married.
The effects of marital rape
If you do not have visible physical injuries from the assault and/ or rape, friends and family may think you are okay. Many people do not understand the extent of trauma that is suffered by rape and sexual assault victims, even if the offender is a loved one.
Because women who are raped by their partners are raped by someone they loved and trusted, they are more likely to:
Be diagnosed with depression or anxiety than those who are victims of abuse by someone other than a spouse or partner;
Have trouble forming trusting relationships;
Have a poor body image which may lead to an eating disorder;
Have more negative ideas about themselves and blame themselves for what happened.
According to womenslaw.org, the fact that effects may be different than other types of sexual assault or rape does not mean that they are less serious. Wives have the same right to assistance as any other survivors of rape or sexual assault.
What is your take on marital rape?
No matter whether the person is your husband, brother, father, friend, or stranger, rape in any situation is illegal. So the problem seems to be that it is just not enforced. Since sexual intercourse is a part of marriage, why would one rape his spouse? That means she is not giving him care and affection. If she was not ready to do such things, why did she proceed to get married? It’s better to go to a psychologist than to security personnel.
Marital rape! That is a phenomenon that I have failed to understand. I would never involve third parties in something that personal. I would try to talk to him and try to reach a consensus on how everyone can be taken care of to keep both of us happy and sane. Should that fail, I would just pack up and leave. I don’t think anyone should be subjected to that kind of abuse. I signed on to be your wife, not your emotional punching bag.
Allan Nash Bish
Marital rape should never happen. If it does, something is definitely wrong, and divorce/separation is in order! Marital rape can be handled using many means that are available for dealing with marital problems, with the legal option being the last resort!
Marital rape is a crime! Separation or divorce could be a short term solution but perpetrators still need to be reported and punished! Sex in and outside marriage should be consensual!!