Rape is one, if not the most under-reported and consequently under-prosecuted violent crime. Whether perpetrated by a stranger, an acquaintance or an intimate partner; it produces the most disappointing outcomes if prosecuted. Rape cases are often grueling, emotionally daunting for the victim, a crime of immense cruelty, which demands an enormous emphasis on proof in a court of law.
A quick examination of what rape is:
Rape is anal, oral or vaginal sex without consent. Therefore non-consensual anal, oral or vaginal penetration by a person’s spouse is marital or spousal rape.
Discussions around Marital Rape are guarded, sensitive and often unconcluded in the minds of many. Indeed in some societies some are of the position that it is culturally impossible to accuse a man of raping his wife. The popular belief is that spouses-especially the wife belongs to her husband and he can do as he pleases when he pleases and how he pleases so much so that it is unthinkable to suggest that a husband can rape his wife.
I however beg to differ by emphasizing the fact that the most crucial element of rape is the absence of consent. The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim does not take precedence over this ultimate factor of consent. Does it not therefore follow that lack of consent in marriage is rape? Rape remains rape as long as lack of consent is an element and Marital Rape is a despicable reality that affects a fair share of women whether or not it is spoken about and acknowledged.
Examining Martial Rape in the Nigerian context, we must understand the integral role power plays. Powerlessness for women and power for men is portrayed in Marital Rape because power gives the perpetrator the privilege of control of the victim’s body, absolute control to take, regardless of the victim’s willingness. It is used to punish, exert control over the victim and prove masculinity. This control is given, sustained and strengthened by patriarchy. Given that the society is an enabler of the rape culture through power and the dominance of men in the private and public spheres, it follows that a marital rapist believes that he owns his wife, a property that can be used anytime he pleases however he pleases; he believes also that sex is owed him by his wife. The prevalence of child marriage clearly depicts this unequal power relations and the way marital rape is enabled by the society. This sense of entitlement by marital rapists renders consent null and may be an indication that such men through socialization can also commit stranger rape. If so, the society can indeed be more dangerous for women than we thought.