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Bethel Acts To Address Marital Rape

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter 

krussell@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel told The Tribune yesterday an amendment to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act has been drafted in response to widespread calls from the public for the Minnis administration to criminalise marital rape.

This issue was reignited last month after United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Šimonović said marital rape is the most pressing gender-based issue facing the Bahamas. She stressed the legality of spousal rape is a sign that something is deeply wrong, adding the issue could be easily resolved through legislative changes.

“We have drafted an amendment under section 15 of the act to create a matrimonial offence that captures all the elements that are referred to under the broad rubric of matrimonial rape,” Mr Bethel said when he was contacted yesterday. “That’s the term that is used out there. It’s not a term used in the act. Section 15 speaks about spousal sexual abuse so we’ve drafted something along that line continuing with the seal set by the statute that already exists.”

However, he said, there are two changes – the statute of limitation period and who should have the right to order that prosecution commences – which need to be finalised before the amendment is passed on to Cabinet.

“When I get the approval from Cabinet colleagues we will release it.

“But it will be for Cabinet to determine how we proceed, when we proceed or whether we proceed. We have moved the ball a step further towards some form of legislative action.”

Since Ms Šimonović raised the concern at a press conference in December, there has been intense public discourse on the matter, which revealed even public officials are divided on the issue.

Last month, Social Services and Urban Development Minister Lanisha Rolle, the only woman in Cabinet, shied away from taking a firm position on whether spousal rape should be criminalised, but said marital rape is “private” and the sanctity of marriage must be protected.

Mrs Rolle said before the government acts or makes determinations that legislate how people’s personal lives are managed – adding there are two sides to every story – there should be a proper national conversation on spousal rape. Once a public consensus is taken, she said the Minnis administration should act accordingly.

This did not sit well with attorney and United Nations expert Marion Bethel who said the comments flew in the face of commonsense and human decency. She said Mrs Rolle needed to be more informed and aware of the issues she speaks of before speaking “utter nonsense”. Several rights groups subsequently called for Mrs Rolle to resign.

However, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis seemed to take a similar tone to that of his Social Services minister, commenting that he had no personal view when it comes to marital rape. He also said the government would ultimately allow the people’s voices to be heard on the controversial issue of whether it should be outlawed.

“I think with all matters (and) new legislation that we will be bringing forth, I think we will take it to the public first, listen to them (and) be guided by them,” Dr Minnis commented in a ZNS interview, which aired last month.

“They must have their input and you’ll see there is change of focus. There are more involvement and that does not exclude the marital rape and so we’d listen to the people. The people must speak. The people must have their voices be heard.”

Asked pointedly for his personal view, he said: “As prime minister I don’t have personal views anymore.”

However, the prime minister’s comments also showed that he and Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest do not agree.

Mr Turnquest has said his personal view is marriage does not give a man the right to “own anybody.” Asked whether he believed the issue was something that should be looked at legislatively, the minister of finance said he was “certainly” open to this.

Comments

bahamama 3 months, 3 weeks ago

“I think we will take it to the public first, listen to them (and) be guided by them”

How is this going to play out? A referendum? Online poll? Will there be a PSA on the legalese involved? Let’s go, I know a lot of people are chomping at the bit to get this moving along.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Criminalizing marital rape should help cut down on adultery committed by Bahamian men who would face the risk of a scornfully vindictive wife seeking vengeance by spitefully crying marital rape in instances where no such rape has in fact occurred. I suspect many wayward men would learn the hard way that hell has no fury like a woman's scorn. Criminal lawyers of course would be happy with all the new business that would come their way, whether or not for legitimate reasons. That said, marital rape should be criminalized.

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

There is TOO MUCH marital dysfunction in The Bahamas right now to open up this "marital rape" can of worms ..... preventing spousal abuse is different from criminalizing marital sexual abuse .... Let us see what these brilliant QCs come up with that will actually be enforceable in The Bahamas.

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John 3 months, 2 weeks ago

So where are the police statistics to confirm that marital rape is a major problem in this country? Where are the scores of married Bahamian women (without hyphenated last names) who are lining up for this law to be passed so they can bring charges against their husbands? Why would this government go a whoring and listening-to and being guided by some foreign woman who will disappear as soon as the law is set and won’t be around to see the devastation it will cause. And since the church is responsible for the administration of Holy Matrimony what and where is their input? Will the wedding wows have to be changed to say a married couple no longer becomes one flesh? Will the man no longer have to wow to love and cherish his wife? And will the married woman no longer have to promise to submit to her husband because she can call the police and have him charge with sexual assault or attempted rape if he tries to get her in the mood? Do married couples now have to put cameras and/or listening devices in their bedrooms (males especially) to protect their innocence? Does this country now need to remove the preamble from the country as it now seeks to tamper with the laws of God?

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bahamama 3 months, 2 weeks ago

@John - I, too, would love to see the statistics on all crime in this country. However, as long as spousal rape and abuse is considered a private matter to be dealt with at home, we aren’t going to see those statistics as they’re not being recorded.

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sheeprunner12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

This a real red herring thrown out there by the feminists and OECD liberals ...... The official Govt. stats (on marital rape/spousal abuse victims) need to be shared with the country and the NGO stakeholders who are so concerned must come forward and present a united public voice.

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John 3 months, 2 weeks ago

@bahamama...then the purpose and intention for making the law is false and based on fraud. If you have no data, how can you dare say it is a major problem in the country? There are hospital records and other means to verify the incidence of rape in a marriage. Then there are marriage counselors and clergyman and even divorce lawyers hardly any of whom have come forward to say, yes marital rape is a serious problem in this country. In fact the contrary is true. When couples file for divorce the claim is that one party or both have been withholding sex. Once you start to fritter away the rights of marriage, you make it, less sacred and less of a necessity.

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bogart 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The illegal act of rape is committed and a vagina is examined by a Doctor who sees abrasions, bloodied, torn damaged tissue, and other evidence consistent with rape and the complaint.

So who in the Religeous or Govt legal secton can now sit alongside the doctor and look at that assaulted vagina, mental pain,anguish, devastation etc and determine if is a married or unmarried vagina so that the married or unmarried penis which caused the damage can be punished???

Are pastors or govt officials that good to be able to tell by looking at the evidence of the vagina or penis and tell whether its married or single?....yep or no das one married vagina dat got raped by an unmarried penis...penis..???

Simple solution staring in the face instead of doing the time is castration like if it offends then pluck it out.

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bahamama 3 months, 2 weeks ago

@John - I personally have never said it is a major problem. However, I do know women personally that have been in severely abusive relationships and nothing was done because the mentality is that it is a private matter in the home. My concern is that by excluding marriage from rape laws, abusive husbands can claim that they can do whatever they wish sexually, as that woman is their property.

And maybe you’re right, changing or addinng laws may not be the answer. There are some seriously twisted minds in this country that think a woman is a man’s property once she says “I do”. It may not be a large majority, but those women who are suffering at the hands of abusive husbands (and vice versa) should also be protected.

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bahamama 3 months, 2 weeks ago

@John - What is your solution/ideas to abusive marriages? Or do you think those don’t exist? I’m not trying to sound patronizing, it’s a genuine question.

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