Saturday March 19 2016

Marital rape, the plague silently afflicting women

By Beatrice Nakibuuka

A housewife and mother of two shares a harrowing experience of being raped by husband as follows; “It was only two months after I had delivered. I had a C-section birth for my first child and since I conceived at a very late age (at 40), I got complications after three weeks.

My wound ruptured I was rushed back to hospital because I bled profusely and was feeling a lot of pain. I was discharged in a week but from the time of my second discharge, my husband was persistently demanding for sex.

I asked him to wait because my wound had not healed well. After a week, he said he was tired of waiting and that his friends had said I must have healed by then. It was so painful that I got bruised and bled.

He raped me for three consecutive nights but I could not tell anyone about my problem. I felt betrayed by the man I trusted for a husband and I lived in fear when he came home.

The forth night was so terrible. My scar ruptured again as I tried to fight him. I went back to hospital and this time he was not even willing to foot my hospital bills.

Two months after, I realised I was pregnant again. I did not want to lose my baby so I carried on with my pregnancy and when I gave birth to the second child, I breast fed them together.”

The law on rape within marriage triggered debate and protest in 2013 among different sections of society on sexuality in the marriage institution.

While some men argued that preventing forced sex with their wives is not part of African values, women had supported the Marriage and Divorce Bill arguing that if this is criminalised, it would reduce the abuse of women in marriages.

The clause on marital rape could see men who are accused of marital rape being sentenced to five years in prison as well as pay a fine not exceeding Shs2.5m.
Diana Kagere, the media and national advocacy officer at Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) defines marital rape as non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse or partner. It is a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

According to Diana Nabuuso, an advocate with Kasirye Byaruhanga and company advocates,if a person does not consent for sex, consents for sex by threats and intimidation, if anyone impersonates as a husband the perpetuator is said to have committed a crime known as rape.

“Although marital rape is a common occurrence in Uganda, our cultural and social norms do not recognize marital rape as a problem. It is treated as normal. Sexual violence and violence against women in Uganda general is at epidemic levels,” says Kagere.

In 2013 annual police crime report, sexual violence was the highest reported crime in the country with 3,426 Domestic Violence cases, 360 women killed, 9598 cases of defilement, 1,042 cases of rape.

The UDHS 2011 indicates that 56 per cent of women experience physical while 28 per cent experience sexual violence annually. However, statistics on marital rape are not disaggregated and are not specifically represented because few women report such cases to police because they fear to be stigmatised.

Why women remain silent
Rape of any kind is a hidden and silent case worldwide according Evelyn Schiller the director of information and communication at MIFUMI. Many women who are raped because of the nature of the case remain silent because they feel it brings stigma to them.

“Marital rape is more than just the physical act as it destroys the fundamental basis of a relationship. It is betrayal of trust, love and confidence as many women identify themselves with their marriages because it is a footstep in their lives,” says Schiller.

“Today marital rape is still perceived as a lesser crime than other forms of rape within different cultures, says Schiller. Some people ask whether it is possible to rape one’s wife. The environment has not favoured women to openly speak about marital rape.”

This same issue sparked a parliamentary debate and public discussion on Marriage and divorce bill and sexual offences bill when it came to marital rape and in fact the clauses on marital rape were out rightly rejected by parliament in these two bills.
What causes marital rape?
The causes of marital rape may include being insensitive to one’s sexual feelings, superiority complex that makes men superior and sexually starved men especially when their wives suspect they are cheating.

“Many women try to punish their cheating husbands by sexually starving them and the men feel the only option left is to force them to. Some men feel they are superior and can do whatever they want to their subjects even without consent,” says Male.

The effects of marital rape
According to Cohen Maliro, a gynaecologist at Diva Medical Centre, like any other forms of rape, marital rape causes bruising, tearing and bleeding especially if a woman has not completely healed after giving birth.

It is important to note that women can only have sex at least six weeks after they have given birth for both C- section and normal deliveries. Such women are also likely to suffer psychological effects such as depression, sleep problems and low self-esteem.

“Marital rape survivors seem to suffer severe and long-term psychological consequences; Women raped by their intimate partners are more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Long-term effects often include sleep problems, depression, sexual distress, problems establishing trusting relationships, low self-esteem, and extra marital affairs due to dissatisfaction,” says Male.

Finding help
What are my rights as a woman? Can I seek legal help?
According to Nabuuso, in case of any type of rape the survivor has a right to report to the nearest police station where she will file a statement.

The victim is then forwarded to a health facility for medical examination and the medical worker is mandated to fill a Police form 3 at no cost.

This form records all the findings from the medical or forensic investigation and is used as evidence in court to prove that rape happened basing on the forensic evidence collected from the victim. The form and statement are forwarded to the prosecutor and court for criminal proceedings.
How do I appear at police?

The victim can appear at the police station with the clothes she was putting on. This helps in providing evidence while the police do investigations but even if there was no physical evidence of any torn clothes or bruises, the medical examination will be able to determine and provide evidence.