Horrifying statistic of the day

Apparently only 17 nations in the world legally recognise marital rape as a crime (from a 1997 UNICEF survey but the situation hasn’t changed much).

(via Feministing, describing how women in Saudi Arabia are fighting for legal recognition of marital rape so that suing for divorce is no longer their only recourse.)

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18 comments on “Horrifying statistic of the day
  1. Kim says:

    I’m sure Rob, or Pamela Bone, or Janet Albrechtsen is working on a highly effective petition, tigtog.

  2. Things are getting better: according to UNIFEM’s 2003 survey, more than 50 states now criminalize marital rape. The 2003 report can be downloaded here.

  3. And for once, the wikipedia entry has a good summary of the relevant law. More here.

  4. tigtog says:

    Thanks, SL. My google-fu failed me there. From 17 to 50 nations in 10 years is an improvement not to be sneezed at. More work to be done, obviously, but that’s more encouraging than I thought.

  5. Alas, I couldn’t find any more recent statistics than 2003, tigtog. There was lots of stuff about legislation/debates etc in various countries, but tracking down the exact numbers would have involved a degree of nerdish poking around LexisNexis that even I won’t come at (well, not just now).

    But yes, definitely getting better.

  6. Paul Norton says:

    I’m old enough to remember when Don Dunstan’s Labor government in South Australia introduced Australia’s first laws against marital rape. This initiative was far more controversial at the time than one might imagine today.

    In the course of the debate, the leaders of some of the main Christian denominations spoke out against the Bill on the grounds that rape within marriage could not happen by definition, as by entering into the marriage contract a woman thereby consented for life to have sex whenever her husband wanted it. I don’t recall any of them attracting the censure from mainstream conservative opinion that comparable comments by a certain Islamic cleric have done in the recent past.

  7. Paul Norton says:

    By “comparable” I mean comparably obnoxious, not that said Muslim cleric has actually put forward a similar argument.

  8. observa says:

    Marital rape laws on the statute books are a bit like chocky, sweets, cereal, etc manufacturers placing blanket ‘possible peanut traces’ warnings on all their merchandise. Really bloody helpful if you’ve actually got a peanut allergy problem.

    Anyhow, it’s time to get stuck into the Hindus instead of the usual suspects, although half of us can empathise culturally with the odd custom or two. After all nobody really wants what they’re having.
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21543310-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  9. tigtog says:

    You’re even weirder than usual, observa.

    It makes a huge difference for a woman to know that the legal system will back her up if she doesn’t want to have sex with ther husband. It makes a huge difference for men to know that the law says they don’t own their wife’s body.

    A marriage with a constant disconnect in desire may well be inexorably headed for divorce anyway, but at least marital rape laws mean that sexual brutalisation is less likely to be part of it unless the husband wants to do time.

  10. observa says:

    tigtog,
    Proving date rape beyond reasonable doubt is hard enough but rape within marriage? As I said, rape in marriage laws are about as useful as blanket peanut warnings. Still, where would we all be without them eh?

  11. Cliff says:

    I’m not really sure what your point is here, Observa. People can die from eating traces of peanuts… just as sure as women can suffer from rape, even if they’re married. Strange, strange analogy.

    If you ask me… there should just be laws against rape. Rape is rape wherever and in whatever situation it occurs… and marriage is a contract, not a man’s deed to a woman. It’s a no brainer really.

  12. Cliff says:

    Did I say a “strange” analogy? I meant weird. Observa, you’re weird, dude.

  13. I think I know where Observa’s coming from – he can correct me if this is wrong, in any case.

    The presence of legislation of whatever type on the books only has a deterrent effect on people who don’t consider themselves criminals in that specific sense. This is why laws criminalizing not wearing a seatbelt are so effective – most people who didn’t wear seatbelts in the old days didn’t see themselves as criminals.

    There will always be a percentage of people who commit crimes (of whatever sort) regardless of any law against it, but the higher the correlation between perpetrators and persons who consider themselves law abiding, the greater compliance will be. This is why murder rates remain so steady, and why domestic violence and rape rates have risen so sharply in recent years. Go back fifty years, and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who considered rape in marriage a crime. As more people came to consider it criminal, reporting rates went up sharply and have only recently begun to plateau.

    However, the high reporting rates also show that the laws need to be backed with effective processes and sanctions. In common law countries, this has meant changes to the law of evidence. In days gone by, spouses were not considered competant witnesses against each other, so even if there had been laws on the books criminalising spousal rape, they would have been useless as the wife would not have been able to testify against her husband.

    During the last 50 years, all common law jurisdictions made spouses competant to give evidence against each other, but they could not be forced to do so. This typically presented itself to an arresting police officer and a bleeding domestic violence victim who ‘did not want to press charges’. Very frustrating for law enforcement personnel.

    Finally, in the last 10 years, most common law jurisdictions have made spouses compellable against each other. This means that a beaten or raped women who doesn’t wish to press charges against her spouse is given no choice in the matter. Her injuries are photographed and the Crown case proceeds regardless. Should she refuse to give evidence against her spouse in the witness box, counsel apply for her to be declared a ‘hostile witness’, which makes it much easier to elicit truthful answers (she can be cross-examined).

    Word among criminal lawyers is that this change is already having an effect on domestic violence statistics; some of the anecdotal evidence is so impressive I intend to do further research into the effect changes in evidentiary rules are having on crimes against women at Oxford Uni when I start there later this year.

    /lawyer off

    Observa’s point seems to be that such laws will be dead on the books unless properly backed, and if that is his argument, then I agree with him. However, we are slowly reaching the stage where the right mix of evidentiary rules, legislative frameworks and sanctions is in place, or will be shortly.

  14. Cliff says:

    You should translate for Observa more often.

  15. Cliff says:

    With respect to Observa, though… I can see that he wasn’t actually opposing such laws… as my post seems to suggest (I guess I was also making a more general statement against countries who don’t have these laws). I took his criticism of the enforcability of such laws to be a criticism of the laws themselves… which was not a charitable conflation, to say the least. I guess I’m a little weird too, dude.

  16. Tiddles The Cat says:

    These laws don’t go far enough if you ask me.

  17. observa says:

    “These laws don’t go far enough if you ask me.”
    Careful Tiddles or next thing you know, you’ll be supporting new ways and means to nail the innocent Hickses of this world and well, umm, err…that’s the dark side remember.

    Whilst I don’t go along with needing 4 blokes as witnesses to prove rape, we all need to be aware of the minefield for the well meaning here. Liberal progressives, least of all would want to be accused of heavyhandedness or witch hunting in private relationships. It’s extremely difficult for outsiders to judge when legitimate salesmanship, gives way to unfair trade practice, let alone standover tactics, especially when the gloss of the initial sale has worn off in the morning. Men will always put the hard word on from time to time and women play hard to get. Women also lie in ways most men never dream of. Sorting all that, often alchohol and drug fuelled interplay out, after the event, requires more wisdom than juries are often prepared to take on. There is also no doubt that a woman scorned is a fearful creature and as for the fantasies they can manufacture in those heads of theirs.

    Now before you all go apoplectic on your keyboards here girls let me give you a couple of examples. A tertiary educated woman, after recall therapy (failing marriage and medical problems to boot) accused her father of molesting her as 4 year old would you believe? For 14 years that lie remained in the ether, until when remarried she recanted to all the extended family members in writing.

    Now let’s shoot to the current turmoil in the Adelaide taxi industry, where taxi drivers of ME appearance are suddenly molesting innocent women all over the town in their cabs. It all started about the middle of last year when, by all accoubts a real attack occurred and perhaps one or two others (same person?) since. But as police are questioning now, not the hundreds of complaints they’ve had since and upon inxvestigation, don’t bear up to scrutiny. Some women have cottoned on that you don’t have to offer the cabbie payment in kind anymore, when you’re a bit short. Just hop out and scream rapist! There on Crimestoppers the other night was one such innocent damsel caught on the cab cctv. She tries to scarper out the back door but the cabbie has it locked, fearing she’s a runner. She then tries to kick out the back window and when this is all a bit too hard, she pulls a knife and threatens the driver who obliges by unlocking the doors. Police are asking for the public’s help to find this well dressed rave partier by the looks of her. The point is we have to be damn sure about rape before getting out the noose. Some rapes are glaringly obvious, but many are not and many have not occurred at all. It gets even hairier if the couple are good mates or married.

  18. observa says:

    Here’s the familiar problem with our victim creating industries ‘making the community more aware’ and looking under every rock, so to speak
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/date-rape-victims-may-be-spiking-the-truth/2005/08/20/1124435181200.html
    I was looking for a recent news report I recall reading, by Adelaide hospitals about the very same issue and came across that same reported experience.

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