Marital rape ban ‘tragically wrong’ says the Christian Council
Marital rape ban ‘tragically wrong’
By JASMIN BONIMY ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~ firstname.lastname@example.org:
The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) said yesterday that the proposed amendment to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act outlawing marital rape would be “tragically wrong” if made legal in its current form.
“Such a law is appropriate to govern sexual intercourse between two persons who are not married to each other because, unlike married people, they have no contract that implies open-ended sexual consent. Therefore, specific moment by moment consent is required by them,” said a four-page statement from the Council.
“But can it be right to bring married people under such a law designed for unmarried people? We strongly disagree. It is not right, and it can never be right to bring all married couples under this definition of rape whereby moment to moment consent is required for every stage of every act of sexual intercourse.”
The Christian Council said that if the amendment passes into law, “while it may be legal, it will be wrong.”
“And it will be tragically wrong because it would be disregarding the marriage covenant and contract between a man and woman, when on the day of their marriage in the sight of God and in the company of witnesses, they pledged to give themselves to each other in holy matrimony and thereby gave each other upfront implicit open-ended sexual consent.”
The umbrella organization that represents many Christian denominations in the country said discourse with heads of local churches has lead most in the Council to believe the marital rape law could have far-reaching consequences.
Citing biblical text, the BCC said marriage between a man and woman seals a contract of “conjugal rights” between the pair, which implies mutual rights of companionship, aid and sexual relations.
“Therefore as it relates to sexual relations, by virtue of getting married, a man and a woman give upfront, implicit and open-ended sexual consent to each other on the day of their marriage for the duration of their marriage,” said the statement.
“If one party to the marriage wishes to revoke their implicit sexual consent, he or she can apply to the court for some kind of order of protection, separation, or dissolution of the marriage. However, until such time, implied sexual consent arising from the marriage contract continues.”
The Christian Council said the proposed amendment, in its current form, would interfere with the marital contract entered in by two people as it defies “open-ended sexual consent.”
Currently, marital rape is only recognized in The Bahamas if the husband and wife are separated or in the process of getting a divorce. If a couple is married and there has been no separation, no rape can occur under Bahamian law.
In late July, the Ingraham administration presented proposed legislation to Parliament that would totally ban marital rape in The Bahamas.
Since then, several religious leaders from various denominations that fall under the BCC have said they support the marital rape ban.
In a recent statement, Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder said when forced sexual activity takes place within the context of marriage, the biblical understanding of marriage is distorted and the relationship between husband and wife is ruptured. Pinder stressed that such sexual activity is not conjugal love and is rightly seen as a crime against the dignity of the human person.
“It must be clearly understood that rape is never an act of love nor is it ever an act of intimacy. It is always an act of violence against the person. Like any act of violence, be it physical, verbal or otherwise, rape has no place in the communion of life and love which is marriage properly understood,” Pinder said.
Earlier this week, The Bahamas Methodist Church urged the government to bring the legislation into force as soon as possible.
“The double-standard we have held between marital rape (since it cannot be legally defined as such) and other rape needs to be removed. Rape, which is a crime of violence, must be defined, tried and punished as such,” said President of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church William Higgs.
“No crime of violence should ever be confused with the sexual intimacy of marriage.”
And in an address to a Rotary club yesterday, Anglican Archdeacon James Palacious also expressed support for the amendment being proposed.
“I believe that the law seeks to discourage men who are in very strained relationships with their wives even if they are still living together from forcing their wives to have sex,” said Palacious.
“In other words, such relationships are already dead and they only need a formal burial to be performed by the courts. Consider the woman whose husband is having sex all over the place ‘homosexually’. Does she not have the right to protest by saying no?”
While insisting that it denounces all acts of rape, the Christian Council said yesterday any laws passed should seek to encourage, strengthen and build a better understanding within the family unit.
The Christian Council made several suggestions that it said would address concerns raised.
“The words ‘who is not his spouse’ should not be deleted from the definition of rape, thereby leaving it as is and allowing rape to only be possible between two persons who are not married to each other,” said the statement.
The Christian Council recommends that Parliament pass a new amendment that makes forced sexual intercourse in marriage a crime which can only be prosecuted in cases of provable force and harm, thereby barring trivial and other allegations that cannot be proven.
“The basic form of the offense should be called a term similar to ‘spousal abuse’ and severe forms called ‘aggravated spousal abuse’. This new amendment should require the attorney general’s consent to charge in cases where the accused person is under 21 years of age,” the statement said.
“Additionally, if a spouse is convicted of violence which led to rape within marital bonds, there should be mandatory rehabilitative steps prior to any form of incarceration. Should there be subsequent abuses leading to rape of a spouse then the full strength of the law should be applied, that is imprisonment etc.”
The Christian Council added, “Perhaps in this regard the government and the church should seek to partner along with other social agencies to ensure that we have qualified, trained and professional persons and personnel to provide appropriate rehabilitative centers to facilitate such a growing concern within our society.”
Friday, September 4, 2009