‘When not if’ on marital rape law


Tribune Staff Reporter


DISCUSSIONS on the proposed Sexual Offences Act continue with State Minister Lisa Rahming indicating it is not a matter of “if” but “when” the act will be passed.

Yesterday evening, officials from various agencies and organisations took part in a forum on marital rape and the proposed amendment to the Sexual Offences Act.

The discussion was jointly hosted by the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs and The University of The Bahamas (UB), where the discussion was held.

Ms Rahming announced her advocacy for the proposed amendments to the Sexual Offences Act. She said: “This means a lot, not only to me, but to those who will benefit, when this act is passed. I’m not going to say ‘should’, because it will.”

 Panelist Cedric Moss, Senior Pastor of Kingdom Life Church, expressed his concerns about the term “rape” in marital rape and proposed several other options.

 He said: “It makes absolute sense to have a law to govern sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons, because unlike married people, unmarried persons have no legal covenant, no legal contract that implies open-ended consent — not that it can’t ever be withdrawn, but it is certainly given at the point of marriage— therefore they need moment by moment specific consent between them.

 “My biggest concern is that the current approach that the government is using proposes to redefine rape to lump unmarried people and married people in the same category, to apply the same rules, to govern their conduct, toward each other sexually.”

 He added: “Rape is what we define it to be. It makes good sense to continue with that approach and leave the definition of rape to be solely applicable to non-consensual sexual intercourse between unmarried persons and simply appropriately extend the provision in section 15 (which calls the act in several cases of separation, assault by a spouse), of the Sexual Offences Act to include currently exempted marriages.”

 Attorney Robyn Lynes gave her perspective as a practising attorney, posing the question, “After rape, then what?”

 “In a society like ours, where everything has to be a conversation, and even after the conversation, it leads into a conversation that’s going to be followed by a conversation, coupled with a conversation. We talk a lot. Because we talk a lot and everyone is entitled to his or her views, the law is slow,” Ms Lynes said.

 She added: “In these collections of conversations, we are also caught up on words, caught up on words to the detriment of our women, to the detriment of our sisters, of our mothers, of our wives.

 “We could win and the law is amended and it takes out those words, ‘who is not his spouse’. And all of sudden in a day, rape no longer excludes a wife, and then where are we? How much closer are we to justice?

 “The truth of the matter is in jurisdictions where marital rape is the law, prosecution is almost non-existent. And so I want to add this question: After rape, then what?”

 Ms Lynes added: “Because that woman needs a safe space. And if we call it rape or anything else, as a country we don’t have a place that she can go.”

 Maxine Seymour, Opposition Senator, said the Free National Movement currently has no official position on the issue, though they have agreed that non-consensual acts should be criminalised, discussions on marital rape are still continuing.

 Questions were raised from the public concerning making the divorce process faster and free, as a way to address the issue of marital rape.

Panelist Carol Misiewicz, retired deputy registrar of the Supreme Court, said going through a faster process of getting a divorce would not address the physical and mental toll a victim of marital rape has gone through.

 Another member of the public asked how initiating sex or doing things to try and initiate sex in a marriage would be classified in both the current law and proposed amendment.

 Pastor Moss said: “Currently under the law, a husband who initiates with his wife in that way is fully protected. (However), a single person should not under the current law, because he can run afoul of the law and commit rape.

“If the definition of rape is changed, that would put married people in that same category as well. A married man would have to think twice about initiating any kind of act that would be defined as sexual intercourse with his wife, should the definition change.”

Mr Moss suggested if rape in the case of married persons is called something else under the law to specify the violence and other factors displayed during the act, consequences of the various offences could range from mandatory counseling to life imprisonment.

 Other panelists who voiced their perspectives included Nicolette Bethel, an associate professor at UB and Charlene Paul, chairperson for Caribbean Women in Leadership (Bahamas).

Commenting has been disabled for this item.