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Can a man rape his wife?

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by: R. Andrew Cummings 18 JAN.08

Static Law

Since conquest by England in 1763, our Law on the question of rape by a husband remains, “the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract”. That proposition which appeared in 1736 in England in “Hale’s History of the Pleas of the Crown” has taken deep and firm root in the body, soul and mind of Vincentians as a whole and men in particular. {{more}}

Changing Social, Economic and cultural conditions

The Law, as enunciated reflected the state of affairs and the contemporary thinking in England. Since then social, domestic, economic and cultural conditions have moved on in the Caribbean. Indeed, the status of women has changed out of all recognition in property matters, availability of matrimonial remedies and punishment of violent husbands among other things. Marriage is now essentially a partnership and no longer is the wife a subservient chattel. Some men now complain that women have far too many rights and protections.

Is it rape?

In recent years, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there has been a steady stream of private complaints by married women against “raping husbands”. On the other hand many married men contend that their wives by reason of marriage have given their irrevocable consent to sexual intercourse under all circumstances. As I see it, it will only be a matter of time before this matter is tested, at the highest level, in a court of Law in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. I am not aware of a test case anywhere in the Caribbean. In the United Kingdom, however, legislation exists to deal with this issue.

Simple solution

Clearly, the old Law must go. Parliament must intervene now. It must be made unlawful for a man/husband to have sexual intercourse with any woman, married or not without her consent. After all, rape goes far wider than the physical person. For sure, it is also a rape of a woman’s mind, conscience, integrity, self-worth, dignity, pride, self-esteem and sense of personhood. For the man it is nothing but machismo and mental slavery to backwardness. Parliament has a solemn duty to put right this historic wrong. The point requires no argumentation or disputation.

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