AFRICA: Women Body Lobbies for Law on Marital Rape

Thursday, November 15, 2012
the Daily Times
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

A grouping of women living with HIV/Aids has asked parliament to criminalise marital rape as a new report reveals prevailing violent sexual life is fueling the pandemic.

However, lawmakers have said the subject is controversial and has urged the lobbyists to first conduct a nationwide campaign on the matter.

Currently, only three African countries—Zimbabwe, Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo have laws criminalising marital rape.

The Coalition of Women Living with HIV/aids (Cowlha) National Coordinator Annie Banda said the group was calling parliament to criminalise marital rape to end sex abuse.

This follows a baseline survey by Cowlha revealing that most Malawian women still suffer from sexual abuse, with 41 percent of respondents to the survey, attesting to have experienced some form of abuse.

"We would like parliament to table a bill on marital sex because we have discovered this is fueling HIV infection and also is human rights abuse.

Hence there is a need for the Malawi Government to not only protects women living with HIV but also women on general from sexual violence in intimate relationships by among other issues," she said.

The study further reveals that 20 percent of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) suffered physical violence while 50 percent were subjected to psychological abuse and 41 percent suffered sexual abuse.

The report further says the most common sexual violence referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) was forcing a partner to have sex without a condom.

This was reported in 25 percent of the respondents and is mainly perpetrated by men on women. PP.

"Other dominant forms of psychological Intimate Partner Violence include reporting home late, observed in 11 percent of the respondents and is perpetrated largely by men; divorce and separation which is mainly perpetrated against women and hiding one's HIV positive status from a positive status," said the report.

However, lawmaker Abel Kayembe said it is difficult for the house to pass the bill now due to lack of consultations on the matter.

He said parliament was more inclined at the moment to pass other HIV/Aids related bills than the controversial proposed bill.

"There is a need for civic education and consultations on the subject because I doubt if the citizenry is ready for such a law. This is a very contentious issue and it is good that there is a research backing your advocacy," Kayembe said.

He said parliamentarians prefer bills which are popular with the masses but also weigh importance to the nation and pledged that the MPs will work with Cowlha on an HIV/Aids management bill.

Marital rape remains a taboo in Malawi society where conjugal rights are at times abused by husbands.

Recently a man in Dedza killed his month old daughter after being denied sex by his wife.