Friday, August 14, 2009 at 5:42 AM
I am heartened that the government of The Bahamas has finally proposed legislation to ban marital rape. After all, according to a 2006 United Nations report, marital rape is already a crime in over 104 countries, including Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago; not to mention being a crime under international law.
Yet this proposed legislation has incited such widespread moral condemnation that one might think Bahamians were living in a Taliban paradise. Indeed, this condemnation exposes the fact that Christian fundamentalists, in many respects, are every bit as fanatical as Islamic fundamentalists.
Of course, much violence has been visited upon women in the name of Christianity. And none has been more insidious than marital rape sanctioned by the misogynistic edict that a woman must always obey her husband’s sexual commands … unconditionally.
But what is so troubling about this edict is the number of women who seem so willing to abide by it. Here, for example, is an excerpt from a Nassau Guardian report on a panel discussion that was held on this proposed legislation earlier this week:
The discussion became animated at several points with activist Rodney Moncur calling Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham “the devil” for seeking to make the marital rape ban law. He characterized the amendment as an assault on traditional Christian family values.
Another woman, who did not provide her identity while speaking, said that it is not possible for a man to rape his wife. She said that she makes herself available to her husband whenever he desires sex, claiming that her body is ‘his body’.
This is why I applaud Opposition Senate leader Allyson Maynard-Gibson for calling on the government to conduct proper consultations:
After the consultation, we should pass the legislation necessary to implement the proposals … and properly fund the institutions necessary for the legislation to be effective… A debate in this context enables a full and complete discussion of the problems and the solutions in relation to domestic violence specifically and support of the family generally.
Except that Senator Maynard-Gibson is probably too politically correct to say that, in addition to consultation with experts, the government should hold public forums, not to debate the merits of this legislation but to impart information about it.
Because opposition to this proposed ban on marital rape is being stirred up primarily by religious leaders. And these are invariably men who proselytize the doctrinaire belief that a man has a God-given right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants it … even against her will.
Therefore, if the aim of public debate is to reason with those who oppose this legislation, then it will never be enacted.
Accordingly, I implore political leaders to ignore the blandishments of religious leaders who not only condone but actually champion marital rape - based on their reading of the Bible and their chauvinistic concept of traditional family values. I rather suspect, though, that self-preservation would preclude these religious leaders from supporting legislation calling for all adulterers to be put to death – as the Bible commands….
To be fair, however, I should note that there are progressive religious leaders in The Bahamas. And I duly entreat them to lend their voices to this debate by preaching the gospel, especially to women, that sexual abuse in marriage is as much of an abomination against God as physical abuse.
In any event, no religious indoctrination or social conditioning can deny the self-evident truth that a woman’s right to determine whether or NOT to have marital sex is as fundamental as her right to determine whom to marry in the first place.
And, for the record, it is patent nonsense to suggest that marital rape can only occur in marriages that are “on the rocks.” For nonconsensual sex, even in purportedly good marriages, is also rape.
That said, as an attorney, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the difficulties inherent in prosecuting those accused of marital rape, including the spectre of false accusations. Indeed, I am mindful that even charges stemming from the “he said, she said” dynamic of date rape are often impossible to prove - given the vagaries of consent and post-coital remorse.
But these difficulties can be dealt with by examining the facts and circumstances of each case. More to the point, they should not be an impediment to the enactment of this legislation since its purpose should be more to deter marital rape than to punish it.