Spousal Rape: The Blurred Lines

 

violence

My attention today was caught by this headline in today’s Post Newspaper, ‘Woman, 24 Denies Raping Husband.’

“The 28 year old husband reported to the police that he was asleep when his wife undressed him and started performing sexual acts with him….” The report read.

You see, with me, every time I read a report of this kind, I am forced to take a side or to assess the facts by putting myself in either the man’s position, the wife’s position, or the judge’s position. I will be the first to admit that I do not have enough knowledge and  experience in Criminal law or Civil law, but maybe it’s that little aspect of law that’s still in my head from my studies in Labour Law…because I am ever assessing things!

Or perhaps I am just human.

At first, I was just curious.

But then as I continued reading and found the above caption, my mind went all wild on me! “Seriously,” I said to myself, “if this is what they call spousal or marital rape then believe me all women in this world have been thoroughly raped before and are still gonna get raped in future!” However, the moment I finished telling myself that, another thought occurred to me; “Why am I being so biased, it can happen to men too judging by the standards above. ” unfortunately, because the report did not give much detail about the event, I could not come up with a convincing conclusion just for my own personal satisfaction. But the article still managed to raise a lot of questions in my head.

I have always been of the belief that marital or spousal rape occurs when one spouse demands or takes sexual pleasure from their spouse who has not given consent, who has been forced, or is not in a position to give consent.” I don’t know how valid or legal my assumptions are but based on that understanding….and this is where the lines become blurry…on the standards of, “not in a position to give consent,” then I guess the wife in the paper is absolutely guilty of rape! But tell me, would the charge still hold if it was the other way round; if the woman was the accuser and the man the offender? And where exactly does the law, customs and religion fit into the picture?

Like I said, I don’t know much about Law so I will stick to things I am most familiar with; Religion. I bet you know the verse I’m driving at…I’m thinking Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22, 1Peter 3:1… All these verses have one thing in common, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands!” Oh dear, someone must have really had it in for the poor woman neh. But then again we have this Bible Verse that seems to reverse all the above verses; “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25.

From the time we were able to loudly say the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’, we knew how sexual mechanisms worked. And from that time forward, Biology has kept insisting that men think about sex way more than women do. Some psychologists have even gone further to argue that this is a likely reason why more women get raped than men! Unbloodylievable I tell you…

Now let’s talk tradition and culture. How many African women (I don’t know about women from the rest of the world) have been told before getting married that if your husband demands sex from you, whether you are tired, not in the mood, on your menses, and all those other disturbing possibilities you can think of, they’ll tell you, “Never should you say NO to him. He can have you whenever he wants and wherever he wants.” Dame they’ll even tell you not to sleep with your back to him because he needs to have access to you at any time in the night! Oh hell, didn’t anyone ever tell these people that a woman can provide access even from the back??? But that’s just me thinking out loud.

So, given this scenario, if an African man, without waking his wife from her sleep gets sexual pleasure from her…can we still say its rape? And what if it was the other way round? And to take this a little further, does the law make exceptions for cultural and traditional beliefs? I understand in Zambia we have customary, statutory as well as common law, and we even have specific courts trying specific cases. But is it possible that all these types of laws take into account the local customs and religious beliefs? And if so, I would love to understand how. Could it also be possible that they might be conflicting at some level? If so, what happens then?

And what’s up with all those reports of spouses suing each other when one withdraws sex from them? “My wife sleeps in leggings to keep me from touching her at night,” “My husband hasn’t made love to me in four years…” so on and so forth. In every weekend newspaper I read all these crazy reports and it’s starting to get confusing. Where do you draw the line? And today we have “My wife performed sexual acts on me without my consent….” Could it be possible she assumed he would be aroused and then respond to her? Could it be something that would have been resolved through communication? Just what exactly did she do to him to force him to report her to the police?  Oh hell, I don’t know. Anyway, what’s going to happen to being a little spontaneous, innovative, imaginative, and all those not-so-decent words we use to describe our sex lives?

I dare not say that this is a gender issue because belief me, I also want to be given the opportunity to make moves on my husband in the middle of the night without having to worry about being sued! Sex should never be a one way street for anyone. If anything, the world (and especially Africans) should be wary of sexually starved women. They can be quite lethal too!

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