||Last Updated: Dec 26, 2017 - 3:55:23 PM
Every individual in the Bahamas, men women and children have the right to live a life free from violence and be protected under the law. In today’s Bahamas, married women living with their husbands do experience this protection when that husband beats or psychologically abuses them. We understand and accept the notion that beating or abusing a married woman is wrong but somehow, we close our eyes or refuse to accept that they can be sexually assaulted by their husbands. In the same way that a husband beats or murders his wife, he can also rape her.
At the Crisis Centre we hear stories of women forced to have sex with their husbands despite their obstetrician’s advice to abstain following the birth of a baby, women getting HIV or STI’s from abusive husbands who have other women and force sex on them. From many of those victims we hear the shame and humiliation they feel following sexual assault by their husbands and their sense of powerlessness. These are but some of the examples where marital rape occurs. It is a devastating and traumatizing experience for women to find out that our law does not protect them from this behavior. Statements which misinform citizens about their right to safety or protection normalize violence and perpetuate rape myths and belief systems that husbands have the right to make choices for their wife’s bodies without their consent. This is abhorrent and unacceptable. The tendency has been to believe that stranger rape is the only real rape, but we know sexual assault occurs within dating, common law and marital relationships. Marital rape occurs in a relationship where domestic violence is part of a pattern of behavior that women live with for years.
To hear that the law does not prohibit husbands from forcing wives to have sex and to hear a debate in the country that speaks to the privacy of marital rape discourages victims even more and makes them question their country’s consideration for them and their right to be safe in their homes. Marital rape is real, and we must name it as behavior that is inconsistent with human rights and healthy relationships within marriage. It is our hope that the government will take this opportunity to develop a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence act which looks at all issues where persons are not protected under the law.
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