Opposition supports criminalizing marital rape

Opposition supports criminalizing marital rape
Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Davis

House Speaker tells media he’s conflicted

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Any measure to penalize or criminalize marital rape will be supported by the Progress Liberal Party (PLP), Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday.

Public discourse over the issue was reignited after House Speaker Halson Moultrie expressed his personal position on marital rape.

Moultrie underscored that “spiritually” a man could not rape his wife.

Yesterday, Davis said: “Marital rape is something that we appreciate could happen and we do not support marital rape and when I say we do not support, we do not support men raping their wives.

“We do not support men raping their wives. And so, we will support any measure that will penalize husbands who will rape their wives.”

Davis said the electorate can expect a PLP administration to address the issue.

Asked if the PLP plans to prioritize the matter as part of its platform, Davis said: “Let me just say this. There are a number of policy initiatives that we as a government, when we are elected, which we will have to address.
“So, for example, our primary focus will have to be on the economy because that is priority number one because the only demographic of our society that seem to be doing well in our society are that two percent at the top.
“The middle class is suffering. Those ordinary Bahamians are suffering and continue to be weighted upon by what this government is doing. So, for me to say prioritize marital rape — to commit right now — we commit that we will address it. In the scheme of things, the economy is our number one focus as your prime minister.”

Speaking to The Nassau Guardian Monday, Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie said while he does not wish for someone to be able to abuse their privilege of being in a marital union to infringe upon their spouses “right to say no”, there is a spiritual aspect to marriage that speaks to “two becoming one and whenever a partner wishes to be accommodated sexually”.

Moultrie addressed the issue after tabling an Equality and Justice Alliance report which speaks to The Bahamas’ obligation to deal with the matter.

The issue of marital rape has been a topic of intense national debate; last resurfacing in late 2017.

At the time, United National Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Simonovic said The Bahamas is out of step with the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Former of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as the country had failed to criminalize all forms of marital rape.

In 2018, Attorney General Carl Bethel advised the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, that the government intends to criminalize marital rape.

A draft bill, titled the ‘Sexual Offences Amendment Bill, 2018’ was circulated to stakeholders, but there has been very few announcements on the issue since then.

Last year, Bethel said the government had no plans to address the issue before the end of the year, saying there was need for further discussions.

He also noted Cabinet had not been consulted on the issue.

The Bahamas Christian Council has not put forward a formal position on marital rape.

However the council proposed in 2018 that spouses found guilty of forcing their partners to have sex, be liable to a prison term of life.