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21 women’s and social sector groups come out in support of proposal to remove marital immunity for rape

21 women’s and social sector groups in Singapore released a statement today welcoming the proposal to fully remove marital immunity for the offences of rape and sexual penetration of a minor.

This follows the recommendation of the Penal Code review committee convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law in 2016. Now that the review is completed a full two years later, the committee has called for a “full, unqualified repeal of marital immunity for rape” that is aimed at providing protection to all women, married or unmarried.

In 2007, the law was amended to recognise marital rape under certain circumstances such as a breakdown in the marriage resulting in husband and wife living separately while awaiting judgement on a divorce, written separation agreement, or had already obtained a personal protection order against her husband. Before that, Singapore didn’t even recognise marital rape.

The recommendation of the committee to completely repeal marital immunity means that it will now be possible to hold men who commit sexual violence against their wives accountable under the law. Where husbands could only be held accountable for outrage of modesty a.k.a molestation before, this repeal would mean that they can now also be prosecuted for marital rape – thus granting equal protection to sexually abused wives.

The repeal would provide equal access to protection for sexually abused wives and ensure consistency with other sexual offences.

In their statement, the 21 women’ and social sector groups voiced for this change, saying “every person has the right to live their lives free of all kinds of violence, including spousal sexual violence. Marriage is meant to be a union for mutual support and care, not a licence for sexual coercion. Doing away with marital immunity is an important affirmation that a married woman - no less than any other woman - has the right to be heard and respected when she says ‘no’.”

Below is the statement in full

25 September 2018 - As women’s and social sector groups in Singapore, we are very pleased to welcome the proposal to fully remove marital immunity for the offences of rape and sexual penetration of a minor. This important and long awaited reform will make it possible to hold men who commit sexual violence against their wives accountable under the law, in accordance with due process.

Every person has the right to live their lives free of all kinds of violence, including spousal sexual violence. Marriage is meant to be a union for mutual support and care, not a licence for sexual coercion. Doing away with marital immunity is an important affirmation that a married woman - no less than any other woman - has the right to be heard and respected when she says ‘no’.

When this law is changed, Singapore will take an enormous step toward a more humane society - one which values consent and equality. We are proud to be counted in support of it.

List of supporting groups:

  • Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)
  • Beyond the Hijab
  • Brave Spaces
  • Crit Talk
  • Disabled People’s Association (DPA)
  • Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT)
  • Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)
  • Lean In Singapore
  • MARUAH
  • No To Rape
  • Penawar Support Group
  • Project X
  • Sayoni
  • Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL)
  • Singapore Committee for UN Women
  • Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO)
  • The Local Rebel
  • The T Project
  • Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)
  • Women and Law in Islam (WALI)
  • Zonta Club of Singapore