Laws against marital rape in Singapore are finally being reviewed. Is marital rape a concern in Singapore? Who can victims turn to for help?
The Wikipedia defines marital rape (or spousal rape) as "the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without consent. It is a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse." Yet, did you know that until 2007, Singapore did not recognise marital rape as an offence at all? Yes, a husband could rape his wife, and it was perfectly legal.
Today, some laws exist, but are vaguely defined. Now, in a landmark move, laws against marital rape in Singapore are being reviewed.
Immunity for marital rape in Singapore under review
According to The Straits Times, Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin, has revealed in Parliament that, the Singapore Government is "actively reviewing" the clauses for marital immunity for rape.
He has been quoted as saying, "Although married persons have conjugal rights over each other, such rights should be exercised within reasonable behaviour. We have to shape society's ideas about what is not acceptable".
Marital rape is clearly an act of abuse and violence, and Singapore should stop ignoring the issue. Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun has been quoted as saying, "How can we turn a blind eye towards brutal acts of violence like rape simply because it is committed by a family member? How can we as a society or as policymakers protect vulnerable members of our society?"
Current laws against marital rape in Singapore
In 2007, laws against marital rape in Singapore were amended. Under the current laws, a man who rapes his wife, is not guilty of an offence unless:
- His wife was living apart from him under an interim judgment of divorce or written separation agreement.
- The couple are living apart and proceedings have been commenced for divorce, or the wife has already obtained a protection order (PPO).
The man who has raped his wife may still be guilty of the following offences:
- Voluntarily causing Hurt, S321, Penal Code
- Voluntarily causing Grievous Hurt, S322, Penal Code
- Wrongful Restraint S241, Penal Code
- Sexual penetration, S376, Penal Code
Issue of marital rape in Singapore
So, have there been many cases of women reporting marital rape in Singapore ?
Jolene Tan, Head of Advocacy and Research at AWARE, tells theAsianparent, "Yes, women do approach the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) in respect of marital rape. We also encounter cases of marital rape when assisting women on other (non-SACC) matters including other forms of spousal abuse."
"We believe that these cases are only the tip of the iceberg since both spousal abuse and rape in general are significant under-reported. There are especial psychological and emotional barriers around speaking up about marital rape since it combines both issues."
What should victims of marital rape in Singapore do, with regards to legalities and counselling?
Jolene informs us, "We urge anyone who has faced sexual violence or has any questions about sexual violence to contact SACC. All the different means of contacting SACC can be found here."
"Our services do include counselling as well as befriending for those who wish to make police reports. If someone is already thinking of making a police report, we urge them not to be deterred by the existing law - even though the perpetrator cannot be charged for rape, other charges such as voluntarily causing hurt or other forms of sexual assault could be brought."
What is AWARE's opinion on current laws against marital rape in Singapore?
"In our view, rape should be treated as rape, regardless of any relationship between victim and perpetrator. The law should be reformed to completely remove all forms of marital immunity (which currently exists for both rape under Section 375 of the Penal Code and sexual penetration of a minor under 16 under Section 376A), so that all cases are equally open to investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing to the same extent, regardless of any marital relationship."
Legalities of marital rape in countries across the world
It is surprising that, in spite of being a 'developed' nation, Singapore has chosen a "midway position" of retaining marital immunity, while waiving it for some cases. Closer to home, countries like Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea have already outlawed marital rape.
All 50 states in the US have criminalised marital rape decades ago. It has also been recognised as a crime in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Check out the countries where marital rape IS a criminal OFFENCE:
And countries where marital rape is NOT a criminal OFFENCE:
A bit sad to see our little red dot figure in the list above, no?
Ultimately, we feel that rape is rape, marital or not; it is a violation of a person's basic human rights. The issue is not of the abuser's relationship with the victim; the issue is one of consent. Marriage does not take away from a woman the right to say "No".
We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and comments with us in the Comment box below.
Join the ParentTown community for Q&A among parents-to-be, parents AND experts!