Marital rape not an offence in Nigeria – Lawyer
Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree –Scriptures, Quran
Many African men refuse listen to any discussion that supports allowing their wives to say ‘NO’ when their (husbands’) bodies are on sexual fire and need their wives’ ‘extinguishers’ to quench it. They tell CHIJIOKE IREMEKA that no law or individual can tell them how and when to sleep with their wives
“I was sick the day of my wedding and struggled to make it through the ceremony and the reception. Once in our room, it was hard to keep from collapsing in a feverish heap under my dress. I always imagined losing my virginity on my wedding night and I wanted the moment to be everything I’d always dreamt it would be, “said Emmanuella Peters.
She continued: “I loved my husband and I wanted to give him something special, not some half feverish attempt, so I told him I wanted to wait until morning. But that didn’t stop him from peeling off my wedding gown. I started crying and said that I was scared, but he told me that everyone was scared on their first time.
“I tried to get up, but he held me down, saying that as my husband, I needed to trust that he knew what he was doing. I told him I wanted to wait until I felt better, but he told me that he had waited long enough.
“I didn’t even remember much of what happened after the initial struggle, all I know was that one minute, I was a virgin, and the next…I wasn’t. I remember sobbing. My virginity gone and my heart broken.” This is a brief story of how Emmanuella was made a ‘woman’ by her husband! But was he wrong to have ‘forced’ her to do his bidding?
A marriage certificate means a lot, but can not be an excuse for marital or spousal rape, which means an act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent,
There have been smoldering arguments on the legality and possibility of marital rape between couples, who are legally married in African traditional setting. This has formed major discourse in courts, churches, mosques, markets and other public places.
Though it’s difficult, sometimes, to establish what a marital or spousal rape is to African marriages as many people have different opinions on marital rape and its reality. Most people held that before a woman accepts a marriage proposal, she ought to have known the expectations of such relationship not to be caught in the net.
Considering marital rape or spousal rape as an act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent, Mr. Suleiman Adulrasaq, argued that once joined together in marriage, the spouses shouldn’t expect much fanfare permission before sexual intercourse takes place between them.
He noted that there is nowhere one who is legally married to a woman and paid the dowry and all the rites that give him the rights over the ownership of his wife is said to have raped his wife for going into her at will.
He argued that marriage is not for children or for virgins, rather for deflowered matured women, saying any woman who doesn’t want to be deflowered or open her ‘honey pot’ for her husband when desired, should go to the convent where reverend sisters dwell.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that in many African cultures, the bride price and dowry are vital aspects of the rites of marriage without which the marriage is not approved or is said to be incomplete. Brides’ families look forward to sending the ‘list’ to the family of the prospective groom.
On the fixed date, the groom’s family hands over the items on the list including the bride price and the girl is handed over to the groom’s family. They believe that with consummation of these rites, the woman “belongs” to the groom and becomes his wife.
It was further gathered that some would interpret this to mean that she becomes his “property,” that he can have sex with her when he desires. After all, he has paid for her. In this context, a husband is said to have paid for his wife and she does not have an opinion when it comes to sexual relations.
In other words, she cannot deny her husband sex. She can not say ‘No’ even if she is not in the mood. If he wants it and she is not in the mood, he has the right to take it forcefully. After all, she is his property and by virtue of the bride price and dowry, he can have his way anytime, whether she consents or not.
A graduate trader, Mr. Bayo Adenle, belongs to this school of thought when he said it is against the normal practice for a wife to deny her husband her body as well as the man, saying that there is no law that will determine when and how she sleeps with his wife as long as she is legally married to him on African soil.
“We belong to Africa, and African women are more or less the property of their husbands and this structure has made our marriages last longer than those of the whitemen, who will wed this morning, and file divorce papers in the afternoon. A woman should be ready to accept the man anytime of the day just as the man will be ready to satisfy the woman at all time.
“I want to believe that in some cases, either the husband or the wife is not ready for the action but with proper foreplay, either of them will be burning with fire of sex and thereby forgetting about his or her initial objection to that. One will not call this one a rape, or would you?
“I can’t be starved with sex as a single young man and still continue in such starvation in marriage. You never can tell who got married to fight sexual starvation and you will say, no when he is burning with the urge.
“To me, there is nothing like rape. This is why the whites are destroying their marriages. Africa is blessed. But I’m not saying that you won’t allow your wife some breathing space sometimes, especially when she is sick or too weak to perform.”
Another respondent to the reality of spousal rape, Mr. Ismaila Akala, said his wife is meant to satisfy his sexual needs all the time, saying that inability of his wife to respond to this marital obligation will force him outside in search of always available alternatives.
“If I come to my wife and she says no, that she is not in the mood, for once, I will let her be but if such excuses continue, I’m a Yoruba man, I will find my way into another woman. I won’t force her, I will let her be,” he said.
Again, Mr. Sola Ogundipe bluntly said: “If I asked my wife and she says ‘No’, I won’t be angry because I have alternatives. Though that alternative may cost money but we will know how to settle it. I won’t rape her.”
It’s against the background of illicit sexual relationships that would lead to marriage break up, especially among the married couples that Christianity, even to an extent, Islamic religion prohibit premarital sex, fornication, adultery and prostitution.
Sequel to this, it’s for the same reason that a wife is bound by the Scriptures and society to satisfy the husband’s sexual desires and vice versa to prevent extra marital affairs.
Book of 1 Corinthians 7: 5, makes it clear when it says, “Do not deny yourselves to each other, unless you first agree to do so for a while in order to spend your time in prayer; but then resume normal marital relations. In this way, you will be kept from giving in to Satan’s temptation because of your lack of self-control…”
The scripture didn’t stop there, as the same 1Cor 7:3 and 4 adds: “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
The sister religion, Islam, in its Holy Quran didn’t keep mute on this topic as in Kuran 2:187, Allah says: “They (your wives) are your garments and you are also their garments.”
Again, Prophet Muhammad said, “If a husband calls his wife to his bed and she refuses without convincing reasons and causes him (the husband) to sleep in anger, the Angels will curse her (the wife) till morning when she makes her husband happy.”
Furthermore, Allah is displeased with her until her husband is pleased with her.” The Prophet said that there is reward in marital sex and that each act earns the couple a reward equivalent to the performance of 70 nawafil (voluntary) prayers. Sex is natural and central in marriage and its absence causes rancour in the marriage.
Although, most African traditions see sexual intercourse within marriage as a right of spouses, engaging in the act without the spouse’s consent is now recognised by law and society as a wrong.
According to Brother Jehu Adimora, if Scriptures are held religiously as prescribed in the Bible, there will be no case of rape at the first stance. The scripture says there has to be an understanding, agreement before one denies the other his or her own body.
“The scripture specified prayers and fasting period as the only time such denial could come but I know as humans, we might have more reasons we want to deny the other our body at a particular time. But it has to be with genuine reason,” he added.
In other words, he noted, if the woman is not in the mood or the man, each should be able to convince the other to wait or allow him sometime before it could be done without putting the other partner off.
Responding to this, Mr. Chinedu Kalu, said: “Well, in my personal opinion, I will let my wife be when she tells me she is not in the mood because the person that says she is not in the mood this night, will be the first person that will wake you up in the morning for it.
“If you try to do it out of man’s ego, you will not enjoy it and at the same time, it could be regarded as a rape. So, I would rather let her be since it’s a one night thing. It has to be a thing of understanding. But then, when it becomes an everyday excuse, it will turn into serious problem.”
“Self control is of essence in all marriages even as a Christian, you need a dint of self control to remain relevant in the race. Self control tells us not to give our bodies whatever it craves for at all times. Sometimes, you need to deny yourselves of certain goodies,” says Rev. Dayo Oke.
He said: “If your wife says no, don’t molest her, try and hold on for such is a trying time. But then, marriage is all about sacrifice. If you consider the damage it would cause, not giving in to the desire and demand of our spouse, especially becoming a threat to your relationship and threatens the sanctity of your marriage, then I will say, do what you have to do to salvage your family and remain together.
“This is the position of the bible saying, a wise woman builds her home but a foolish one destroys it with her own hand. Men don’t rape your wives for the love and respect to continue,” he warned.
Marital rape not an offence in Nigerian Customary Law
According to a senior lawyer and President of Igboekulie, a pan-Igbo Organisation, Prince Ben Onuara, marital rape is not an offence or crime in Nigerian Customary Law as there is no punishment meted out against those that committ it.
He noted that before one would say that something is an offence, or crime, there has to be of punishment and sanctions mapped out for indulgencing in such act.
“Though I don’t advise any right-thinking man to rape his legally married wife, yet it’s not an offence in Nigerian Customary Law. I haven’t seen or heard anywhere a man was sentenced for, raping his wife, though some civil society groups want it ciminalised. But it’s not an offence punishable under any Nigerian Law.
“If someone claims such is an offence, what then is the punishment for marital rape? Is it death by hanging or automatic divorce or what? I do not know any punishment in law that is meted out for any man, who raped his wife. In fact, your inability to give your body to your spouse is even a crime because it’s termed marriage inconsummation and can lead to dissolution of the marriage.
“In many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, the consummation of a marriage, often called simply consummation, is the first (or first officially credited) act of sexual intercourse between two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a prolonged romantic attraction.
“Consummation of marriage is full sexual intercourse between married persons after their marriage by the insertion of the penis into the vagina. Inability to consummate because of impotence or refusal to consummate is a ground for nullity of the marriage.
“But a reasonable man should show some understanding when his wife is not strong enough to go into rigorous sexual intercourse. For instance, if your wife is heavily pregnant, you don’t expect her to have sex with you when she is having cramps. Though some funny men without conscience can do this, yet there is no known punishment for that.
”Remember that there is no uniformity in Nigerian Customary System as what is a taboo in one culture, in one part of the country, may not be in another part. For instance, a woman can commit adultery in some cultures without punishment but in another culture, it’s a crime punishable by immediate divorce. So, our men should be reasonable and responsible enough to know when their wives need rest.”
Sunday Telegraph, therefore, observes that understanding matters a lot in a marriage relationship. The husband can be weak, likewise the wife, so it’s expected that both spouses show understanding when necessary to run away from acts that could jeopardise their lovely marital relationship.
Again, this is the way to show that the fear entertained by both Bible and Quran of possible marriage break up due to one spouse’s inability to respond to the other’s sexual desire, does not happen.
More so, many African men do not know that forcing themselves on their wives when they are not ready for it is an act most civilized societies and minds termed seen as unmanly, though, according to Onuora, has no legal punishment in Nigeria.
However, rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent, while marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent.