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Marital rape an ’emotive topic’ – MCYS

The following is an excerpt from No To Rape's blog

In October 2010 No To Rape made a submission to the Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sport’s consultation on proposed amendments to the Women’s Charter. We reiterated our call for the complete repeal of Sections 375(4) and 376A(5) of the Penal Code, and also submitted that compulsory marriage preparation courses should emphasise the importance of affirmative consent in all sexual activity.

In November 2010 we received the below response from the Ministry. The reply that we sent them today is also reproduced below.

To date, given the absence of any reply to the original petition from the Prime Minister’s Office, this is the fullest statement that we have from the government on the issue of marital rape. No To Rape is continuing to work at a grassroots level to conduct research and build community report for legislative change. If you would like to be involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Link to our original submission here. This is the response received from the Ministry:

Dear Sir/Madam

We refer to the submission by No To Rape to MCYS via the REACH website and also to Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on 5 Oct 10 regarding the abolition of marital immunity to rape in Singapore.

2 We note No to Rape’s views with regard to sections 375(4) and 376A(5) of the Penal Code. The issue of marital rape is an understandably emotive topic. Following substantial consultation and deliberation in 2006 and 2007, the Government had moved to accord wives with greater protection by expanding the circumstances under which marital immunity is lifted, but not to abolish it altogether. This is a balanced and calibrated approach which would ensure that wives who have made clear their intent to withdraw their implicit consent to conjugal relations are protected by the law. Such an approach affords the necessary protection to women whose marriages are, in practical terms, on the verge of a breakdown or have broken down, and who have clearly signalled that they are withdrawing their implicit consent to conjugal relations, so that their husbands are forewarned that marital immunity has been lifted. At the same time, husbands who have entered into sexual activities with their wives on the basis of mutual consent are protected from accusations of rape thereafter.

3 A balance needs to be struck between various interests, such as that of protecting vulnerable women and preserving the institution of marriage. The Government believes that such a balanced and calibrated approach is a better one than abolishing marital immunity altogether and will continue to retain sections 375(4) and 376A(5) in the Penal Code.

4 Public education is key in preventing family violence. MCYS, together with our partners, conducts public education on family violence, including spousal abuse, dating violence, child abuse and elder abuse. The key messages are: Violence is not acceptable and may continue to get worse; seek help early if you are or if you know someone in a violent relationship. The public is also educated on the signs of violence and the help channels which are readily available at their neighbourhood family service centre (FSC) or family violence specialist centre. In addition, efforts are also made to provide skills on conflict resolution and building healthy relationships, and strengthening families to better cope with stresses without resorting to violence.

5 On your suggestion that compulsory marriage preparation courses should emphasise the importance of affirmative consent in all sexual activity, we will consider this suggestion when evaluating the content of the courses.

6 We wish to thank No To Rape for taking the time and effort to submit the feedback.

Rahayu Buang (Ms), Senior Assistant Director (Family Policy), Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

To read No To Rape's response, click here.