Calls intensify for legislation to deal with the issue of marital rape

Educator Zahra Airall
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By Theresa Goodwin

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Recent local debate and online commentary surrounding the issue of marital rape in Antigua and Barbuda show that some people are in full support of the notion that a woman does not have the right to refuse the sexual advances of her spouse.

Two female activists are also of the view that the public feedback on the matter so far, demonstrates that people have very little understanding of what consent means in sexual or intimate relationships.

Educator Zahra Airall said that online comments on the topic so far promote the popular belief that there is a thriving rape culture in Antigua and Barbuda.

“This debate that is happening recently really provides [evidence] that we have a thriving rape culture in Antigua and Barbuda. To the men and women who have been speaking out and loudly scolding colleagues, coworkers, and friends for supporting non-consensual sexual acts, I applaud you, and I ask you to please continue,” Airall said.

Attorney-at-law, Annetta Jackson, supported the point made by Airall and went further to suggest that rape is usually seen as an offence committed by an intruder or someone who is unknown.

However, statistics have shown that sexual violence and intimate partner violence is oftentimes perpetrated by someone known to the victim.

“People need to begin to peel back the layers of consent and unpack what it means to consent to sexual activity, what it means to be actively engaged and that consent is something that is continuous and it is not something that is coerced or forced,” Jackson said.

Conversations on the topic ignited weeks ago after the sentencing of a man who raped his minor daughter, and talks in the Caribbean about criminalising marital rape.

Some online commentators have supported the notion that sex between a husband and wife is consensual and should not be thought to be anything but that. They have also used biblical references to support their arguments.

Others have questioned how the evidence would be obtained to prove that a husband attempted to, or successfully had non-consensual sex with his wife.

Meanwhile, Anglican priest, Reverend Canon Reid Simon acknowledged that marital rape is real, and it is something that has to be addressed through wide stakeholder consultations before a law is introduced.

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