The idea of the sacrosanct; institution of marriage dished out by the mainstream in folklores passed down to women by their mothers and movies by Nollywood and most especially Hollywood is a myth and is contrary to women perceptions of reality. Though marital rape is the most common and repugnant form of masochism in the Nigerian society, it is hidden behind the iron curtain of marriage. Social practices and legal codes in Nigeria mutually enforce the denial of women sexual agency and bodily integrity, which lie at the heart of women human rights. Rape is rape. Be it stranger rape, date rape or marital rape. The law does not treat marital rape as a crime.
Even if it does, the issue of penalty remains lost in a cloud of legal uncertainty. The legal system must be forced to accept rape within marriage as a crime. Further, women themselves must break free of societal shackles and fight for justice. They must refuse to comply with the standards applied to them as the weaker sex. This part of this research work shall try and expose the discrimination, shortcomings and fallacies of the criminal justice system in Nigeria as regards marital rape. It goes on to provide arguments and reasons necessitating criminalization of marital rape.
Marital rape is any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent and/or against a person's will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. These sexual acts include intercourse, anal or oral sex, forced sexual behaviour with other individuals, and other sexual activities that are considered by the victim as degrading, humiliating, painful, and unwanted.
Rape is an offence, which hinges on the absence of consent of the woman. It is important to realize that the absence of consent does not have to be only in the form of the word ‘no'. It should be assumed from the context of the situation. Within a marriage, if a woman gives consent to sexual intercourse because of threat of injury to children or herself, depriving the woman of the right to stay in the house or receive maintenance, it is not valid consent. It is still rape.
The offence of marital rape has not been sufficiently accounted for in the law. The law does not punish rape within marriage if the woman is above fifteen years of age. Forced sexual intercourse is an offence only when the woman is living separately from her husband under judicial separation/custom. It must also be remembered that situations of marital rape occur within the confines of the home, and therefore there are often no witnesses to the crime.
Till now the concept of Marital rape has not been recognised. We have been lobbying for a law in order to make it an offence but for this we firstly need to collect statistics of rape within marriage.
Despite the historical myth that rape by one's partner is a relatively insignificant event causing little trauma, research indicates that marital rape often has severe and long-lasting consequences for women. The physical effects of marital rape may include injuries to private organs, lacerations, soreness, bruising, torn muscles, fatigue and vomiting. Women who have been battered and raped by their husbands may suffer other physical consequences including broken bones, black eyes, bloody noses, and knife wounds that occur during the sexual violence. Specific gynaecological consequences of marital rape include miscarriages, stillbirths, bladder infections, infertility and the potential contraction of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.
Women who are raped by their partners are likely to suffer severe psychological consequences as well. Some of the short-term effects of marital rape include anxiety, shock, intense fear, depression, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress. Long-term effects often include disordered eating, sleep problems, depression, and problems in establishing trusting relationships, and increased negative feelings about themselves. Psychological effects are likely to be long-lasting. Some marital rape survivors report flashbacks, sexual dysfunction, and emotional pain for years after the violence.
TYPES OF MARITAL RAPE
The following three kinds of marital rape are identified by legal scholars as generally prevalent in the society:
1. Battering rape:
In battering rape, women experience both physical and sexual violence in the relationship and they experience this violence in various ways. Some are battered during the sexual violence, or the rape may follow a physically violent episode where the husband wants to make up and coerces his wife to have sex against her will. The majority of marital rape victims fall under this category.
2. Force-only rape:
In what is called force-only rape, husbands use only the amount of force necessary to coerce their wives; battering may not be characteristic of these relationships. The assaults are typically after the woman has refused sexual intercourse.
3. Obsessive rape:
Other women experience what has been labelled as sadistic or obsessive rape; these assaults involve torture and/or perverse sexual acts and are often physically violent.