Human Rights Week 2012, 64 Years On… Marital Rape An Unpleasant Reality

by RITU MAHENDRU, 13.12.2012 | London

Right to life with Dignity, Right to Humanitarian Assistance and Right to Protection and Security are the three key humanitarian principles and are considered to be the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

64 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through its budget lines, the EU have made several attempts to respect the rights of women. This work included combating discriminatory practices against women such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage and early marriage, and gender-based violence.

However, during a recent emotional address by Hilary Clinton at the Dublin City University, Ireland, Clinton highlighted that Violence Against Women is far from over giving example of young Pakistani girl, Malala, who was targeted by the Taliban because she stood up for the educational rights of girls in Pakistan.

Gender-based violence is taking a global stage in the development world. In 1996, WHO declared violence as major and growing public health problem. Moreover, in August 2012, the Obama administration passed an executive order to ‘Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally’.

Paucity of research demonstrates that both women and men suffer gender-specific violence.

International research indicates that intentional injuries in women make up 2.8 per cent (1.4 per cent self-inflicted, 1.0 per cent by violence, and 0.3 per cent by war and civil conflict). The male population shows higher rates than women of self-inflicted injuries (62.6 per cent) and war related mortality (84.3 per cent).

However, it has been reported that women are more affected by violence (80.09 per cent) and suffer violence more frequently than men do.

While men suffer violence outside homes, women suffer gender-based violence caused by their immediate family members and/or intimate partner in the forms of emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence or Marital Rape or rape in marriage, a topic which is likely to cause offence and discomfort to many.

There is still a great deal of argument that if rape in marriage does exist.

Women often do not disclose their experience of rape in marriage to avoid conflict between themselves and their partners and decrease the likelihood of further physical and sexual abuse. The other reasons are their own and off-springs’ social and economic security but also because women often do not have the right support and access to professional advice.

Rape is often understood in terms of its perpetration by a stranger and/or with some or extreme form of physical force. If there is no evidence of physical violence, the rights of women are seen as secondary to the moral concerns of social norms.

While men suffer violence outside homes, women suffer gender-based violence caused by their immediate family members and/or intimate partner

Moreover, the issue of consent in marriage is seen irrelevant, as there is a notion of ‘presumed consent’.

While Violence Against Women occurs in most societies across different social backgrounds, there are currently no reliable statistics on the prevalence of Marital Rape due to underreporting of the issue and women’s reluctance to discuss these experiences. The social embeddedness and sensitivity that surrounds the issue makes it difficult to assess the impact of the problem.

If Marital Rape does get reported, the moral agents of society dismiss women narratives as insignificant or not worthy of attention deliberately devaluing women’s voices and their feminist consciousness.

Society constantly questions authenticity of women’s own lived realities, which remains at the mercy of the laws established and approved by men.

Despite the efforts made by The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly to protect women rights, women rights and freedom are still far from universal. Marital Rape cases in many Asian countries still go unreported with wives having no possibility of legal protection from their husbands.

There is no law at present to identify Marital Rape and penalise husbands for forced sex in Marital Rape in many Asian countries. Currently, Hong Kong, Nepal, Russia and Turkey are few of the many countries that have made spousal rape a criminal offence. China, India, and Indonesia have no legal provisions for Marital Rape.

Marital Rape is an unpleasant reality. The moral agents of society fear losing grips and powers on the social institutions that control female bodies, sexuality and their existence.

If Marital Rape does get reported, the moral agents of society dismiss women narratives as insignificant or not worthy of attention deliberately devaluing women’s voices and their feminist consciousness.

The full realisation of human rights require all human beings to recognise women rights as a human right issue and be part of a social change that ensures to protect and promote these rights.

Ritu tweets as @ritumahendru

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