KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Religion has been gravely misused to justify the decision against making marital rape a crime, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said today.
The coalition of women’s groups pointed out that a parliamentary committee had previously cited alleged clashes with “Shariah law and other religions” when it decided that rape within valid marriages should not be made illegal.
“The Parliamentary Select Committee report in 2004, which stated that recognising marital rape would conflict with Shariah law and other religions, is a grave misuse of religion as no religion would ever espouse any form of violence or coercion,” the coalition of women advocacy groups said in a statement.
In a Parliamentary reply yesterday stating that marital rape will not be made a crime, the Home Ministry had quoted the committee’s findings, among other things.
But JAG bluntly said that “rape and sexual violence” are a common form of domestic abuse and do take place in marriages in reality.
JAG highlighted a report that stated “rough sex” was a leading cause of divorces among Muslims in Selangor, while noting police statistics from 2013 showed 31 per cent of victims suffered sexual violence from either existing or former partners — including boyfriends, fiancés, and ex-husbands.
The coalition said today that it was shocking that Malaysia continues to allow marriage to be a man’s “licence” to force sex on his wife, further stating that Putrajaya’s failure to outlaw marital rape denies women their rights.
“The continued refusal by the government to fully recognise marital rape as a crime is demeaning to women nationwide as it denies a woman the right both over her body and to say no in a marriage.
“Furthermore, it exposes our lawmakers’ outdated acceptance for the absolute submission of a wife to her husband,” it said.
While noting that Putrajaya had rolled out Section 375A of the Penal Code in 2007, JAG lamented that this offence against men causing fear of death or hurt to their wives for sex is a mere “compromise” and “inadequate tool” to combat marital rape.
“Unfortunately, Section 375A amounts to a compromise which fails to recognise the current reality of many married women who have sex forced upon them by their husbands, by not just physical means, but mental, emotional and economical means as well,” it said of the offence that carries a maximum jail term of five years.
The Home Ministry’s “alarming” disclosure yesterday that no man has even been charged under Section 375A since it was introduced on September 7, 2007 shows Putrajaya’s failure to create awareness of women rights, as part of its obligations under a United Nations convention, JAG said.
It also accused the federal government of putting in “little effort” to highlight that husbands should not force their wives to have sex, or that wives raped by husbands can take legal action against them, or to “address the difficulties, shame, and embarrassment faced by women on reporting crimes of such an intimate nature”.
The federal government should criminalise marital rape to show its rejection of violence against women “under the guise of marriage”, JAG said.
The JAG coalition comprises of eight women groups — All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Perak Women For Women (PWW), Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER), Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO), Sisters In Islam (SIS), Tenaganita and Women’s Centre For Change (WCC).