THE Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is disappointed with de facto Law Minister Nancy Shukri’s statement on June 10 that the Government has decided not to criminalise marital rape.
Section 375 of the Penal Code now contains an exception stating that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape. This is regardless of the wife’s consent or lack thereof.
In a press statement, the group said the exception reflected a lack of awareness by legislators of the dynamics of rape, and especially the impact of rape within marriage.
Statistics gathered by religious authorities in Selangor stated that ‘rough sex’ was one of the top reasons for divorce amongst Muslim couples.
The trend of sexual violence within marriage was further reflected by police statistics from 2013, which showed that 31% of victims faced sexual violence from their partners, or former partners including boyfriends, fiancés, and former husbands.
The statement read that the Parliamentary Select Committee report in 2004, which stated that recognising marital rape would conflict with Shariah law and other religions, was a grave misuse of religion as no religion would ever condone any form of violence or coercion in marital relations.
“There was an attempt to criminalise rape within marriage in 2007 through Section 375A of the Penal Code, which stated that any husband who caused fear of death or hurt to her life to have sex shall be punished for a term which may extend to five years.
“Unfortunately, Section 375A amounts to a compromise which fails to recognise the current reality of many married women who have sex forced upon them by their husbands, by not just physical means, but mental, emotional and economical means as well,” the statement read.
JAG comprised of All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Perak Women For Women (PWW), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO), Sisters In Islam (SIS), Tenaganita and Women’s Center For Change (WCC).
It further stated that it was alarming that the Home Minister had revealed that no charges had been filed under Section 375A of the Penal Code since it came into force on Sept 7, 2007.
“Notwithstanding that Section 375A is an inadequate tool to combat rape in marriage, this statistic reflects the Government’s failure to uphold its legal obligations under UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (which Malaysia ratified in 1995) in creating awareness of women’s rights.
JAG called on the Government to remove the exception to marital rape in the law as a clear rejection of the violence that had been perpetrated against women under the guise of marriage, and to increase its efforts to combat domestic sexual violence in the country.