COMMENTARY, Nov 2 ― When I was in college, my then-boyfriend pulled out a switchblade and toyed with it while we argued about something.
Then he put it away and sexually assaulted me, full of anger and rage. I didn’t try to fight him off because I was scared, so I just lay there mute as he used his fingers to penetrate me without my consent.
I didn’t lodge a police report because I felt it would make the crime real. The man I loved, whom I once thought I would marry, couldn’t possibly do such a horrendous thing. I couldn’t reconcile the two.
Also, it wasn’t technically rape because Malaysian law defines rape as penile penetration of a woman’s vagina without her consent. American law, however, defines rape as the “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim”.
So I tucked it away in the back of my mind. We broke up months later.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin made the stupidest excuse for refusing to criminalise marital rape ― by essentially saying it was pointless to do so because it was hard to secure convictions.
So if it is difficult to prosecute people for having sex with animals who cannot testify against their attacker, should we allow bestiality then?
Hanipa said there was only one case of domestic sexual assault under Section 375A of the Penal Code that prohibits a man from causing hurt or fear of death or hurt to his wife to have sex, punishable by five years’ jail. The punishment for rape under Section 376, on the other hand, is 20 years’ imprisonment.
It is already extremely difficult as it is to file police complaints against rape due to stigma, much less against a spouse or intimate partner.
But the job of legislators is to make laws against wrongdoing, especially violent crime. Good policymakers will go a step further beyond legislation and educate the public that consent is necessary in any sexual relationship.
Hanipa mentioned that a parliamentary select committee had rejected in 2006 proposals to criminalise marital rape, citing religious grounds.
Funny. I thought Pakatan Harapan (PH) was supposed to introduce new policies, not keep terrible ones by Barisan Nasional (BN).
The PH government should remove the marital exception to rape that protects non-consensual sex between husband and wife from prosecution. A man doesn’t have to physically hurt his spouse to obtain sex without her consent, ergo rape.
He can easily drug her or use emotional abuse to have sex without her consent.
Malaysians must know that a woman is not obligated to give her husband sex. She has the right to say no if she is tired, has a headache, or just doesn’t feel like it.
If he has sex with her without her consent, because he mistakenly believes that marriage has given him a sex slave on call 24/7, then that is rape.
Besides deleting the marital exception to rape, PH should amend the definition of rape to make it more gender-neutral and encompass other forms of assault besides the heterosexual P-in-V.
Women’s rights groups have proposed this definition: “Penetration of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offense of rape”.
PH’s refusal to criminalise marital rape is all the more disappointing since a minister herself, Yeo Bee Yin, launched a rape awareness campaign in 2015 when she was Damansara Utama assemblyman together with the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), a women’s NGO I volunteered and worked at after college. (Trigger warning for the video in the article linked).
Yeo had also told me she considered it progress that the BN government then was discussing marital rape. She suggested at least increasing the penalty from five to 20 years’ jail for men who hurt their wives to have sex, the same punishment as the one for standard “rape.”
Well, now, PH is in power. So what are they waiting for?