By Khrisna Russell
DEPARTING from her party colleague Lanisha Rolle’s stance that marital rape is a private matter, Miriam Emmanuel, MICAL MP, said she supports criminalising spousal sexual abuse, telling The Tribune it is “absolutely wrong” for any man to “dominate,” “harass” or “force” his significant other to satisfy his flesh.
While conceding that due process must take place before marital rape is outlawed in the country, Mrs Emmanuel yesterday said once this is done she would support any legislation which upholds the rights of women.
Meanwhile, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe, also a member of the Free National Movement, told this newspaper she was not yet ready to make a public statement because she was still consulting with residents in her constituency.
Mrs Emmanuel’s outright rejection of marital rape comes amid fiery criticism targeted at Mrs Rolle who is the Seabreeze MP and sole woman Cabinet minister. Mrs Rolle is minister of social services and urban development. On Tuesday she refused to take a firm position on the controversial issue when she was asked by reporters for her views on spousal sexual abuse.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has also said he has no personal views on marital rape, adding the people will decide which direction the government takes.
“First and foremost, I am for it because in my view I don’t think it’s right for another human being whether it be your husband or your significant other (to have) the right to force himself upon you at any time,” Mrs Emmanuel said.
“And also even though you are married there is still in my view, which I practice, a level of privacy that is still due within that marriage.
“So there must be boundaries because a paper just legalises that the ceremony takes place, but it doesn’t give you the right to dominate or try to harass your partner, wife, or significant other just to satisfy your flesh.
“Yes it might be different views coming from the church and other persons might have their have their beliefs and perhaps go to the Bible for a theological perspective, but in my view I don’t think at no given time any human being - whether they be man, woman, boy or girl - has any right to infringe upon the rights of another individual just because you are married to that person.”
She continued: “I don’t support it (marital rape). It’s absolutely wrong and I support any bill that will come to rectify this so that everyone will understand that we are not bound by things as women that we don’t agree with just because we are married and have to say okay we have to do it. No I don’t support it and so I am for it.”
Asked if she believed it was time for the government to address spousal rape as urged by the United National last week, Mrs Emmanuel said while she agrees the issue must be resolved, it will come down to due process.
Attorney General Carl Bethel has said the Minnis administration is currently making no moves to outlaw marital rape.
“Everything takes a process and time and before we move or ask the government to move it has to also be a thought-out process,” she told The Tribune.
“It should be brought also to the community for feedback to give people a better understanding of what is about to be presented and give them enough information so it wouldn’t be rejected or to show them where you are trying to take the country with women because you know women still have a long way to go not just in the Bahamas but in the world at large,” the MICAL MP said.
“So if he (the attorney general) made that statement I don’t think it’s a statement to say it won’t be given first priority, but I know that it will come because I think the Bahamian people want to also to be a part of whatever is going to transpire so I think they should be involved in giving them an opportunity to be a part of what is about to take place.”
In an interview with reporters ahead of Cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday, Mrs Rolle said the country does not condone violence against women, adding: “In relation to marital rape, I’ve always said it is an issue that is private.”
Her response contrasted with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest who earlier had said he was open to legislation that would protect a woman’s fundamental right to her body, even in the context of marriage.
Two prominent Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) women said Wednesday, in response to Mrs Rolle, said the social services minister is not upholding the mandate of a ministry that has long been the government’s gateway to pushing women’s issues.
When contacted, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin said: “I am shocked by what she said. As someone with responsibility for women’s issues she was not upholding her responsibility. She was derelict in that regard. Her view flies in the face of what is accepted globally and in our own country. Just because you marry someone they are not able to assault you.
“Marriage is a co-operative undertaking. We accept to a contract by saying ‘I do’ and that kind of consensual attitude continues throughout the marriage.”
Former Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin said Mrs Rolle’s comments “were amazing” because she is in charge of women’s affairs in government.