Donald Trump hit the headlines a few years ago when his ex-wife accused him of Marital Rape, with A lawyer at the Trump Organisation telling journalists that legally speaking, you can’t rape your spouse. “It is true,” said special counsel Michael Cohen. “You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.” Cohen was defending Donald Trump against allegations made by his ex-wife Ivana Trump, who once used the word “rape” to describe an incident between them in 1989.
More recently, in October 2018, across the pacific in Malaysia, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin told Parliament that the government would not criminalise marital rape because it was hard to secure convictions, citing also a parliamentary select committee’s decision in 2006 to reject on religious grounds criminalising spousal rape.
Despite the prevalence of marital rape, this form of domestic violence has received relatively little attention from society over the years.
Nonetheless, rape is rape — it doesn’t matter if the perpetrator and victim exchanged holy vows or have children together.
Simply put, contrary to what Trump’s lawyers may believe, or Ministers in Asia, it cannot be denied that marital rape occurs, and is a crime.
The UK has acknowledged marital rape, or spousal rape as a a form of sexual assault under UK law, in contravention of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The offence occurs when an individual commits a sexual act without the consent of their spouse or their ex-spouse, or against their will. If someone is unable to consent to a sexual act or their consent is obtained by force, threat or intimidation, the sexual act is committed without consent.
Marital rape will also be considered as a form of domestic violence and may also include allegations of assault or that the accused has acted in a controlling and coercive manner.
Islam’s approach to Marital Rape
- It is absolutely haram (unlawful) for a man to harm his wife. The Prophet SAW prohibited harming others in general, (4:21); who is one’s “garment” (2:187), and who lives under one’s ri’aaya, care and shepherdship, as mentioned in a prophetic tradition? (30:21), and commands men to deal with their wives in an honourable way (4:19). Rape, abuse, ill treatment, and inflicting harm – be it physical, verbal or psychological – are completely unacceptable in such a relationship.
- It is true that the contract of marriage grants a husband the right to intimacy with his wife, and vice versa, however, this does not imply that one can seek to obtain this right violently or forcefully. Just as in any situation in which one has been deprived of one’s due rights, one must go through the proper channels to resolve the matter in a just and honourable way. At no time does it become permissible for someone to take it upon themselves to harm the other party in a misguided attempt to ‘take their right’. This would amount to a type of vigilantism or seeking of personal vengeance that has no place in Islamic tradition, in which we are taught to defer such disputes to those with religious and legal authority.