Can a husband rape his wife? - pastors divided on the issue

June 29, 2017


With Parliament currently reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, some activists are calling for the law to be changed to recognise that husbands can rape their wives.

However, some clergy members have expressed mixed views on the issue.

Presently, Jamaica does not recognise rape within a marriage unless the parties are separated.

Reverend Rennard White, who has been married for some 45 years, said that based on the context of marriage, forced sex is not quite rape.

"If they [a married couple] are cohabiting, [forced sex] would have to be something else, such as violence or abuse. I don't think it should be called rape, honestly. To make it rape, for me, it's stretching it a little bit, no pun intended," White said.


Marriage presumes consent


White pointed to First Corinthians 7, which says that the body of the wife does not belong to herself alone, but also to the husband, and vice versa.

"By extension, if we own a home jointly, if we have a vexation and you say you're going to lock me out, suppose I get a crowbar and take off the door and come in? Can I be charged with breaking and entering? It is my house," White reasoned.

Recently, six churches and a lobby group made a presentation to Parliament, represented by Philippa Davies, who said marriage presumes consent for sex by both parties.

Hence, legislators should not change the laws as it relates to marital rape. She also noted that the criminal law has remedies to deal with abuse in marriage.

However, Reverend Karl Johnson, general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, opined that rape is rape.

"I am not a lawyer, so I'm just speaking as a simple Jamaican. I do not condone any form of forced sexual activity, regardless of the relationship, and I think we should strive for that, and do all in our means ... to ensure that we stamp out any form of forced sexual engagement in our country, no matter which relationship it is," Johnson said.

Reverend Herro Blair Jr of the Spanish Town Deliverance Centre, said he sits on the fence.

"I fully believe what the Bible says ... that my body belongs to her and hers to me, but I also believe we should respect each other, and each others decision as we go forward," Blair said.

He added that there should be legislation in place to protect women's rights. However, he said "I don't believe it should be treated the same as when a thief comes into your house and rapes your wife. I believe a husband and wife situation should be different."

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