By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WHILE rejecting the ideology that a man has the right to force his wife to have sex with him and can “get some” whenever he wants it, Bahamas Harvest Church Pastor Mario Moxey said yesterday he cannot yet support the criminalisation of sexual spousal abuse before an in-depth discussion about the contentious issue takes place.
Pastor Moxey said he would need to be satisfied that any change in this regard is not an affront to the sanctity of marriage.
He questioned what rape looks like in the context of marriage, adding to criminalise spousal rape could leave the door open to abuses of the law.
Despite insisting the country must denounce the idea of male dominance over his wife and highlighting the Bible’s rejection of sexual abuse, which he defined as grounds for divorce, the pastor said wives would be faced with financial burdens if husbands are sent to prison because of marital rape laws.
He said legislators need not create laws leaving wives without financial support, which would lessen the likelihood of them reporting such abuses.
Pastor Moxey is the first religious leader to out rightly come out against marital rape criminalisation since public debate was reignited after a United Nations representative said last week spousal rape is the most pressing gender-based issue facing The Bahamas.
Bahamas Christian Council President Delton Fernander said on Sunday the church remains divided on the issue. This is why he has said he could not yet provide a position on the matter.
He referenced the Ingraham administration’s attempt to outlaw spousal rape in 2009, and said the planned changes to the law at the time – which never came into effect – would not have been appropriate for married couples.
Pastor Moxey said in a press release: “What then does ‘rape’ look like within the context of marriage, especially when one considers that sexual intercourse in marriage is legal and should be protected as opposed to being outlawed? If the amendments proposed by The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2009 was enacted, and a wife tells a husband, ‘shop close tonight’ and without physically touching her, he insists on having sex and she eventually acquiesces, is that considered ‘rape?’ Could she go to the police station the following morning and say, ‘I told my husband no but he insisted on having sex and so he raped me last night and now I’m reporting him?’
“Would that be grounds for marital rape? If he were found guilty, according to the law, he could serve a life sentence in prison. That seems unconscionable.”
He added: “Then there is the obvious concern that a married woman may trivially accuse her husband of rape or the threat of rape and as a result manipulate him into subjection. What would prevent an abuse of the law, if for whatever reason, a spouse has an axe to grind; what would prevent her from attempting to imprison her husband through this legislation? Simply, this is a threat to the sanctity of marital sexual intimacy as it raises the level of distrust and suspicion within the marriage covenant.
“One must follow the path of creating a law, which criminalises marital rape. A man is accused of marital rape and eventually sentenced to prison. Then what? His wife then files for divorce during or after his release from prison. Or his wife waits for him to be released in the hope of reconciling the marriage, provided that he has been reformed. In the meantime, the financial burden of the family falls on her shoulders.”
He continued: “Although I do not believe that decisions of such grave importance should be motivated by money, many wives will not report marital rape in fear of losing financial support for the family. As a result, wives will make the decision to continue to subject themselves to a sexually abusive relationship. Global statistics of marital rape are low. I do not believe that they are low because it is not occurring; I believe it is low because wives do not want to lose the financial support they enjoy. This is most unfortunate, but it is a reality of life.
“Those that do report the sexual abuse could see their husbands imprisoned and in many instances, this will eventually end in divorce. This is a less than ideal way to address a very vexing concern for all parties. It is certainly my desire that all women be protected, but I am challenged to support amending the existing law to enact marital rape for the above reasons.”
Pastor Moxey also spoke to withholding sex from a spouse, an aspect of the marital rape debate which has found its way into discussions on social media.
“It is important to emphatically state that even though a wife may be withholding or acting in an unsavoury manner, this is no excuse or reason for a man to justify taking sex by force from his wife. No man has the right or authority to force his wife to whatever he wants her to do. A wife’s body must always be protected and treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
He said he is a proponent of marital reconciliation and strongly believes that marriages can recover even from abuse and infidelity.
He said sexual abuse should be included as a legal ground for divorce. This way, the wife can file for divorce and have the continued benefit of her husband’s financial support, without being concerned with his possible imprisonment and the burden of the disruption of such support.