Get women’s consent for sex, men told in marital rape debate

Dr Farouk said the debate of whether marital rape exists in Islam came about due to the belief by many conservative Muslims that a woman must yield to her husband’s sexual need at all times. — File picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Dr Farouk said the debate of whether marital rape exists in Islam came about due to the belief by many conservative Muslims that a woman must yield to her husband’s sexual need at all times. — File picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — A Muslim group believes that men must let their wives control their own bodies and respectfully seek their spouses’ consent for sex, amid a debate on whether Islam recognises marital rape.

Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) founder Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa said plainly that men who insist on sexual intercourse with their wives without their consent would be assaulting the women’s rights.

“They must get their wives’ consent because they must respect a woman as a whole, complete with intellectual faculty and emotions, a full human being,” the Muslim intellectual told Malay Mail Online yesterday.

“So if a Muslim man respects his wife to be of equal stature to him, there is no reason for him to impose himself upon her,” Dr Farouk also said in an email response, adding that the wife must be given full authority to make decisions about her own bodily, spiritual and sexual needs.

“Any imposition without her consent is basically an assault on her rights as an independent human being. If this imposition without consent is termed marital rape, then marital rape it is,” he said.

Earlier in his email response, Dr Farouk said the debate of whether marital rape exists in Islam came about due to the belief by many conservative Muslims that a woman must yield to her husband’s sexual need at all times, labelling it a “patriarchal understanding” of spousal relations and women’s status in Islam.

“To them, a woman is like a property that belongs to her husband and he can use her as he likes. A woman is like an object that simply fulfils the lust of the husband.

“This understanding is so entrenched in the psyche of some Muslims, men and women alike, and the very reason why we heard about women who volunteered to Syria to fulfil their obligation of ‘sexual jihad’,” he added, referring to reports of those joining Syria-based militants to provide sex.

But Dr Farouk said there are many progressive Muslim thinkers — including Egypt’s Muhammad Abduh and Malaya’s Syed Sheikh al-Hadi — who had propagated women’s right to education and on their position in the home and society.

According to Dr Farouk, Syed was an early 20th century leader of then-Malaya’s Kaum Muda that penned Hikayat Faridah Hanum — a Malay literature that was likely to be the first to feature a woman as its main character.

Instead of being portrayed as a passive subject merely reacting to her surroundings, the Faridah Hanum character was shown to be a woman of substance who demanded that she be treated as man’s equal, he said.

“Faridah Hanum to al-Hadi symbolises an ideal modern progressive Muslim woman capable of exercising her own rational agency and freedom of choice while remaining true to her religion and moral values,” he said.

With his depiction of Faridah Hanum, Syed had brought to light the traditionalist ulama or religious scholars’ “monopoly of the discourse of Islamic jurisprudence”, as well as the misguided view of women as “fundamentally weak and in need of constant protection by men,” Dr Farouk said.

After the recent appearance of Damansara Utama assemblyman Yeo Bee Yin’s rape awareness campaign posters stating “Without her consent, it is rape. No excuse”, some Muslims have insisted that rape does not exist in the context of Islamic marriage, saying that it covers situations involving unmarried individuals.

In Malaysia, marital rape is not a criminal offence, but a husband may be prosecuted and imprisoned up to five years for forcing his wife to have sex by threatening violence or by harming her.

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