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Can a husband rape his wife?

By Francis Ewherido The issue of rape is topical at the moment. People are asking questions and someone asked: “Can a husband also be accused of raping his wife?” For me a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is insufficient. To start with, what is rape?”Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent.”

In Nigerian Criminal Code, Section 357, “any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.”

Legally speaking, a husband cannot be accused of raping his wife in Nigeria, going by this definition of rape. Also in most African traditions, it will be ludicrous for a wife to accuse her husband of rape. Even the family that the woman came from will wonder if their daughter is sane. It is believed that once a man pays a woman’s bride price, he has all rights over her, including conjugal rights.

In fact, some see the wife as a property. It takes a reasonable man to realize that his wife is not a piece of furniture, but a human being with a mind of her own, feelings, emotions and moods. In Christian marriages, rape of a wife should not come in if the spouses follow the Christian teachings and their marital vows.

In ICorinthians 9: 3-5, Paul wrote: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other (sex) except perhaps by mutual consent…”

When taking marital vows, spouses promise to love, honour and cherish each other. Now this is my take. In marriage, sex should be freely given and taken.

Where it is not freely given, under no circumstances should it be forcefully taken. An unsatisfied sexual urge has never killed anybody and it will not kill you. Notable marriage counsellor and youth coach, Mrs. Bridget Itsueli, asked a group of youths I brought together for mentoring 12 years ago: “since you have been reading newspapers, have you ever read any obituary where the cause of death is an unsatisfied sexual urge?” Granted that an unsatisfied sexual urge does not kill, why should you deny your spouse his/her conjugal rights? Yes, it is a right, an entitlement.

Some spouses deny their spouses sex because they are angry. My question is, if you are angry with your boss in the office — and it happens sometimes — do you refuse to do your work? If your answer is no, the same thing should happen in your marriage.

Whether or not you are angry with your spouse, if he/she asks for sex, please give it to him/her. If you like, you can discuss the reason for your anger later. But if you want to bottle up your anger, na you sabi! But spouses must act in love and be considerate when dealing with the issue of sex.

For instance, if your spouse comes back from work and he/she is exhausted, if you ask for sex and he/she explains to you that he/she is very tired, you should be reasonable enough to let him/her be. There is always another time, which can be as soon as five hours later. Some spouses are unbelievably insensitive and selfish. When we were in Ughelli, Delta State, in 1970, there was an uproar. A woman was shouting, “mi vwie nu bo” (I was delivered of a baby only recently) repeatedly. All the woman around, including mama, ran there. I was too young to understand.

But what happened was that her husband wanted to sleep with her about three weeks after delivery.

Having witnessed some childbirths and post childbirths, I am numb at the man’s insensitivity. But if there are no inhibitions and your spouse is in the mood for sex and you are not, please give it to him/her. You don’t have to enjoy it every time to necessitate you engaging in it.

At such times, just take it as your marital duty and fulfil it. Now I have a special plea to wives. An author once observed that when a man has an erection, his brain goes on recess. I do not know how sexual urge is with women, but that is how it is for men. E dey make us no dey get sense. As much as possible, do not starve your husband of sex.

Even if it means you will just lie there while he pleasures himself, do it. I do not want to write about some of the confessions of men who were denied sex by their wives here, but in mild cases, some of them sulk and sulk for days. Some husbands turn violent and take it force, unfortunately. Men scarcely take rejection in good fate.

I have heard some shocking marital tales. A woman denied her husband sex because he refused to pay for her asoebi. Another woman denied her husband sex because he refused to buy her a particular car. One more bizarre tale, a husband demands for and collects money (bribe) from his wife before sleeping with her. It is very wrong to use sex as a weapon in marriage; it is a grievous marital abuse that that should have no place in marriage. In the United States, rape of wives is recognized and it is a criminal offence.

But I feel enacting laws against rape of spouses alone does not solve the problem. There are other abuses (physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) going on in marriages. The solutions still remain mutual understanding, empathy, respect and love. Where these are absent, there should be laws to give all spouses all-round protection.

When discussing the issue of rape, some people throw in a rider: provocative dressing by women fuels rape. These people do not get it. A half-naked or naked woman does excite men undoubtedly, but that is not the issue. In Urhobo land, every adult, especially men, has an alias (odova). My grandmother’s was esevweremare (old people’s fashion). If you call her esevweremare, she will respond, “obijiwoni, wokw’opharokuphia” (if it offends your sensibilities, turn away). The issue here is choice. Rapists have the choice of looking away. You cannot justify rape because some women dress scantily/provocatively. In any case, 18-year-old Miss Barakat Bello was a hijab-wearing Muslim, yet she was raped and killed in Ibadan last week. It is simply NO, NO and NO to rape, no riders, no preconditions.


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