Marital rape, the plague silently afflicting women

Marital rape, although criminalised by many conventions is still largely ignored because many African societies believe sex issues should remain a private matter, writes Beatrice Nakibuuka.

Saturday March 19 2016

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.

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