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Singaporeans less enthusiastic about marital rape petition than repeal of 377A. Wang Simin.

Petition against ‘marital rape’ off to slow start

Report by Wang Simin / Photo courtesy of Jolene Tan

But organisers are extending campaign to 30 November to garner more signatures.

RAPING YOUR wife is okay in Singapore, but while a petition was initiated to abolish this exception in the law, the response has been less enthusiastic than expected.

(Photo: The core team, from left -- Wong Pei Chi, Jolene Tan and Mark Wong)

Almost 3,000 signatures have been garnered since 1 July when the campaign started, well short of the aim of 10,000.

Contrast this with the Repeal 377A petition two years ago, which garnered more than 8,000 signatures in less than a month. The open letter was subsequently sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The “No to Rape” campaign was started by a group of individuals who saw it as an injustice that the Penal Code grants immunity to husbands who rape their wives in a marriage, and they want the law to be amended.

This exclusion is known as “marital rape”.

Originally scheduled to end in September, the petition drive has been extended to 30 November.

One reason for this slow response is because marital rape has been given less publicity in the press, as opposed to homosexuality, said professor Chua Beng Huat, a sociology professor in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He added: “Those who were raped by their spouses are reluctant to go to court for violence or abuse.”

Prof Chua also said that victims of marital rape are also less likely to take on self-identity as marital rape victims, unlike homosexuals who label themselves as LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people).

According to him, gay politics is driven by gays themselves and not by somebody on their behalf, and they constitute a significant number of individuals signing the petition against 337A, while marital rape petition is done on the behalf of the victims who are likely to be a small number.

“If you take self-signing into account, the number of supporters for marital rape campaign among concerned public may not be less than those for the gay petition,” said Prof Chua.

Agreeing with the professor is the No to Rape team. They do not consider the response lukewarm. This is because the team is small (about 40-50 people have worked on No to Rape in some capacity), entirely volunteer-run, has no formal organisational affiliations.

Also, the three core team members are largely unknown to the public. It consists of Ms Jolene Tan, 26, a charity fundraiser, Ms Wong Pei Chi, 25, bank officer, as well as freelance designer Mark Wong, who is 28.

Being able to get national media coverage both in print and television, as well as signatures from prominent and diverse people, meant a lot to them, said Ms Tan.

Regarding the number of petition signatures, she added that it may not be an accurate representation of support for the campaign.

“A number of people have expressed misgivings about supplying their full names and IC numbers, so the current figures are likely to be an understatement of the true numbers who support the movement,” said Ms Tan.

The trio has always been interested in current affairs and social issues. Since 2007, they have been researching on marital rape immunity, and planning for the No to Rape campaign.

Also, the postponement of the petition drive is also made to tie in with the publicity around the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (a UN event), which may increase public awareness of the issue and win more signatures, said Ms Tan.

Furthermore, the team hopes to reach out to various organisations and communities to raise awareness of the issue. Another plan they have is to release a third film advertisement at the end of October.

The film encourages people to speak up for what they believe in and say ‘No’ to anything they reject, such as rape and censorship for example.

They hope to open up a national conversation on issues previously not discussed in Singapore, such as marriage issues, said Ms Wong.

The No to Rape campaign does not stop in November when the petition ends. Ms Tan said: “We won’t be extending the petition beyond then, but the campaign won’t come to an end – we have plans for further lobbying in the future.”