Marital Rape: An Unacknowledged Crime!


By Yasmeen Ali

They are married. When She says NO. And He forces. It is Marital Rape. Every woman has a right to take a decision about her body, to decide if she wants to exercise birth control, get pregnant and when NOT to have sex. Physical coercion alone is not rape. What about implied or actual physical threats?
However, accepting undesired sexual advances from the husband is not taken as anything wrong, illegitimate or worth complaining about in Pakistan’s culture. It is a wife’s duty to submit to him whether or not she desires sex herself. When sexual abuse takes place in a marriage, neither the husband nor the wife recognizes it as rape- as stated in law. Since a contract is in place, it lends legitimacy to sexual abuse. Sex-on-demand-and-when-desired is deemed to be an unwritten part of the contract.
The wife feels it is her duty to oblige the husband. She does not believe that it is her right to deny yielding to his physical needs, in most cases. Interestingly, if no physical violence is involved, she will usually never translate it into rape. Or, even when it is. In a society where women are unaware of their right to divorce their husband in the same manner a husband divorces a wife; by both parties acknowledging the right and agreeing to it on the contract of marriage, how can one expect her to be aware of the right over her own body? This is true for most women irrespective of their socio-economic positions.
The Hadood Ordinance enacted under the Shari’a Law in 1979 lays down law/punishment for zina. This is defined as, ‘A man and a woman are said to commit ‘Zina’ if they willfully have sexual intercourse without being married to each other.’
This law deals with extra marital relationships or one contacted between unmarried persons or one married and one unmarried person.
The other law is the Women Protection Bill passed in 2006. This bill enabled courts to try rape cases in the criminal court instead of Islamic court. This bill enabled also, doing away the need to do have multiple male witnesses to the act of rape.
Unfortunately, marital rape has continued to be excluded from the definition of rape-even if it may be in the form of a separate law altogether. Pakistan is heavily recognizable of conjugal rights within the marriage institution-but completely overlooks the proviso to protect the spouses, more especially women from being abused in a relationship. Marital rape is intrinsically tied in with respect of women. In societies where women are generally considered ‘inferior’, their desires, grievances and abuses are brushed aside. Arranged marriages with the spouses may not know each other from Adam until they get married, often takes place, but consummation of marriage more likely than not takes place on the first night of the wedding.
In a report published in Express Tribune, March 9, 2011, Dr Shamsa Humayun, a gynecologist said that patients don’t complain of sexual abuse from their spouses even when the evidence is overwhelming. “I have examined women with severe vaginal tearing, enough that they needed stitches, but they still never admitted they were assaulted,” she said.
Since the abuse takes place in a relationship of trust-the psychological scars are deeper as repeated abuses may take place. Out of unawareness of rights and a shame that may spring from keeping the real face of relationship hidden from outsiders the victims may suffer months and years of criminal behavior without bringing it to light. Hardly ever, do cases get reported. There may also be fear of repercussions involved in a continuing relationship. The problems in prosecuting marital rape has more to do with social attitudes and the very nature of the crime, since an absence of consent has to be proved, coupled with the accused being aware of/ or at least suspecting that said consent was absent, a difficult burden to discharge when confronted with a situation where intimate relations are to be expected, and all elements of the crime must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
If she does not seek divorce and bring the husband to justice, what is her future? She has to deal with saving herself from an abusive relationship and handle emotional wreckage. What if she cannot prove the charges against the spouse? Does it lead to worse abuse resulting from shaming him and his family publically?
In Pakistani society, generally speaking, a woman is completely forbidden culturally to address a sexual issue in public. A woman who rebels against the cultural norms may be severely punished for it in form of beatings by the spouse, or being sent back to her parents’ house if they are alive. Or the brother if they have passed away. In a society where great emphasis is placed on keeping a marriage together- this can be a frightening proposition! The financial strength of the wife and/or her parents/brother will play a major role in seeking independence.
In a country beset with low literacy, sex treated as a taboo subject; educating masses may be an uphill task. Even in cases where children go to school, sex education is not a part of teaching. The parents usually assume that somehow, once old enough the children would know themselves of the dos and don’ts. A fallacy!
Whereas we recognize ‘regular’ rape as a crime-that of a young girl in a moving bus in India created a furor, leading to worldwide shock, horror and condemnation; that committed in the institution of marriage; alas; goes unacknowledged.
How long shall we continue refusing to acknowledge this act? It is after all 2013.

For original reference click HERE:

4 replies

  1. It is a serious case. There should be no mating without consent and no need to definitely meet on the first night. The couple should see each other well for a few days (if they have not done so before) and if the lady approves of the person then they should mate. There is a lot to be observed, spiritual and mental matters before going into sex.

    But because the female are the weaker side and cannot afford to have any say in the matters or be willing to go back to where they came from, they usually agree to mating on the first night.
    But that is not any essential teaching of Islam.
    The rest of the article is also mostly correct. There should be law against any man forcing things on his wife.
    There is one important rule described in Islam. That, wife should always obey whatever her husband says. If he tells her to put a pile of bricks near the door. She should do it. If he tells her again to put it back where it was, she should do it.
    But let us keep it to the bricks only and not to bring it into the act of mating. That should be by willing partnership of both parties. The husband should and must take into account the willingness of his wife.
    There are many other things that I need to say in these matters:
    1. There is no Nikah without “Rukhsati” i.e. There is no nikah without joining the husband in his home. This word Nikah is being sed in the wrong manner and puts many ladies into trouble without even seeing their husbands.
    2. Nikah means living together behind closed doors in complete privacy, whether having sex or not, whether being legally married or not. (Of course illegal living together will be unislamic, will be a sin.)
    3. Husband should never divorce their wives in one go. The wives should be given three clear notices. During the notice she should remain at husbands home.
    4. wife should not be beaten by husband in any matter unless there is a grave offence, and in that case also, it should be a light touching, hitting.
    5. Husband should never divorce the wife without paying her dower (Haqq Mehr) in full.
    6. There should be no demand placed on the lady before marriage. Marriage, for a lady, is a sort of appointment. Any demand will make it a disappointment.
    7. Specially in arranged marriages, the couple need time to understand each other, to see and feel each other, because they had not been allowed any such meeting before actual marriage, it is necessary that they should mate after some feeling and understanding. In cases of discussing before marriage, if both have seen and met each other, it may not be necessary to wait. But still the willingness of wife would be necessary.

    7. I heard that, among Jews, or some some Jewish tribes, it is the wife who calls the husband for mating and the husband cannot do that. I do not know if it is true.
    8. The damage, in the case of any wife refusing the husband, is that he may go looking for some other lady to fulfill his desires. For that reason, it is considered useful and necessary that the lady should always oblige. Of course, she does not want her husband to see or meet any other lady.
    9. There is a case of the marriage of our beloved prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. to some Jewish (?) high status lady. When the prophet entered her room (or tent) she said, “I seek refuge of Allah from you.” It meant that she did not want his company.
    The prophet s.a.w.s. said, “You have sought refuge of a very high authority.” He, immediately, sent her away back to her home.

    I hope no offence is committed by my comments.

  2. This is a tricky subject. If husbands can be accused of raping their wives, then it will be way to easy to wrongfully accuse a man. If this is the nature of the relationship then the woman should simply leave the relationship. It is simply not the right place for her to be. If she is unable to leave for social/financial reasons then putting that man on trial with whom she must live with in any case, would put her at a greater risk.

    Secondly, as ideal as the situation of mutual desire sounds, men and women often have very different levels of desire. A lot of women, even in western cultures, allow their husbands to proceed even if they are not in the mood.

    As for establishing conjugal relations in the first night of marriage, it is a false notion that just because they don’t know each other the bride would not want it. It is a human desire after all and the couple has gotten married and the festivities leading up to the wedding build up those expectations. All that is needed is for the husband to approach the wife with love and consideration. The only issue may be of physical difficulties for the bride if it is her first marriage and that sometimes requires more time.

    There are sayings of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) according to which women should not refuse conjugal relations to her husband. There is also a hadith that says angels curse the woman all night who refuses marital relations to her husband…but in this context it is significant to note that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) did not say that if the wife refuses the husband should force himself on her. The scenario in this hadith indicates that the husband left the wife alone.

    The reason for not refusing one’s husband is quite simple…it helps keep the society chaste since a man is only allowed to engage in these relations with his wife. If the man has a very high level of desire and the woman very low, and the only time they engage in marital relations is when she also feels like it, it will not be a marriage that helps keep the man chaste. The opposite can also be true, though is rare. In extreme cases women end up marrying men with medical issues due to which they are unable to have conjugal relations and those marriages are terminated by women and those divorces are fully justified under Islamic law.

    The other solution for solving large disparity in desire would be to let the man have another wife. This may not sound appealing to many liberal minds, but may be a lifesaver for many women. The only other choice would be for the man to leave her and marry someone else.

    The main issue in this whole debate is not the disparity of desire, but that of kind treatment and mutual love. Men in general should be taught to treat their wives with love and compassion…and on the same token if wives let their husbands go ahead with marital relations with them when they themselves are not feeling up to it, it’s no one else’s business.

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