You are here
Busting the Myths about Marital Rape
A lot of arguments have surfaced against the criminalization of marital rape, against considering forced sex between spouses rape, and against its inclusion in the law to protect family violence currently being deliberated in parliament. Nasawiya presented some of these arguments and their rebuttals in order to dispel the myths that continue to plague women’s sexual rights and bodily integrity – whether in law, public perception, or in her power of negotiation in intimate relationships. You can watch the video in Arabic from the event here: http://youtu.be/EAYWgv8JWEo. The event was held at Babel Theater in Beirut on November 15, 2011. Check out the photo gallery here.
We’ve noticed two kinds of arguments: those about whether marital rape is rape at all and arguments about whether or not it should be criminalized in the penal code. We hope you share with us your commentaries, arguments, and opinions in the open discussion that will happen afterwards.
ARGUMENT: There is no such thing as marital rape because it is a wife’s duty to give her husband sex, so he can’t possibly rape her. He is just exercising his right.
Mbala there is, rape is forced sex. Whenever sex is forced, whenever it is not consensual, it is rape. And rape is a very serious crime against a person’s body, mind, and spirit. It doesn’t matter if it’s within the context of marriage or a relationship or whatever the excuse is. No man has the right (Divine or otherwise) to rape his wife. Any religious interpretation that condones this is one that is erasing the bodily autonomy and integrity of women.
Marital rape does not exist in a void – it often comes as part of a relationship that is marred with violence and exploitation and abuse. And the arguments that normalize it exist within a patriarchal society that continuously places women’s bodies at the service of the state, the family, religion, and capitalism.
ARGUMENT: Marital rape has its reasons, if a wife continuously refuses sexual relations with her husband or if she is cold, or shy, or can’t initiate sex or she provokes her husband.
A woman is her own person first, before being a wife. Her marital obligations don’t mean that she wipes out her own bodily and sexual autonomy. She does not “belong” to her husband. If she refuses to do anything, sex especially, it is her full right as a human being to say no and not have to face force and rape. Sexual problems within a couple are to be solved with communication and negotiation, never with force or violence.
ARGUMENT: Marital rape is a Western phenomenon. It doesn’t exist in our countries and this demand is trying to ruin our cultural values.
The demand to address marital rape emerged from years of direct work with women in Lebanon, from their daily stories and struggles. Marital rape exists in all cultures – ours included – and it needs to be dealt with without the excuse of dismissing our demands as Western because they are not. Dealing with culturally-sensitive issues is not the same thing as preserving traditions that have harmed oppressed our populations for ages.
ARGUMENT: Religious courts already deal with marital rape and they know how to do it best. It is not the job of the Penal Code. Families are sacred & every religion has its particular rules, so every family must follow its religious rules.
Obviously, if women in Lebanon are crying out against lack of protection, it must mean religious courts are failing miserably. We reject the sectarian system that divides among women in Lebanon – weakening their collective struggle and giving them the worst end of the personal status laws – across all sects without exception. Families are not sacred and homes are not forbidden. They are social structures that change and adapt for the betterment of society and culture. We demand a unified law that preserves the human rights of women outside of sectarian differences. Plus, the rape law exists anyway in the Penal Code, and it is in the penal code that we want it amended not to exclude spouses.
ARGUMENT: Criminalizing marital rape will dismantle the family, fathers will lose respect, and children will be traumatized.
Rape is violence and violence itself dismantles the family. If the mother is unhappy and oppressed, the children will be affected anyway. Why do we want to preserve the image and respect of a father who is abusive towards his wife? What kind of children is that rearing anyway? A protective law will inhibit violence and rape and can only be good for the children and the health of the family.
ARGUMENT: It is still a sensitive topic, if we make it illegal right away, society won’t know how to deal with it.
Khalas sensitive topics. It is not sensitive to the women who have to suffer it. It is a public concern, for us as a society and a culture, for our men and women, it is a logical, basic human right and if you think our society is so perfect anyway, you wouldn’t mind a protective law. What do you have to fear?