Problem

Marital rape

Other Names:
Undesired sexual obligations within marriage
Forced sexual intercourse between spouses
Obligatory sex between husband and wife
Nature:
Rape within marriage is not always recognized as a problem; in fact, it is not always recognized as being possible. Many legal systems exclude the wife of the offender as a victim of rape, since marriage by definition includes sexual relationships. When a man married a women, he received the right to have sexual intercourse with her under any conditions he chose. If he was not married and raped a women, he had only to marry her afterwards to make adequate reparation in society's eyes. The crime of rape was seen as a crime of honour: only the victim's honour was damaged, and that could be restored by marriage.

Forced sexual relations between spouses have alarming implications, however. Many women continue to live in a brutalized relationship because of their uncertain economic future should they leave their husbands, or due to a fear of the negative attitude commonly held about a woman whose partnership has disintegrated. Although it is usually both partners who contribute to the failure of a relationship, it is most often the man who uses physical aggression and thus turns a tense or broken relationship into a violent one.

Background:
Rape in marriage has only recently been legally recognized as a crime: Belgium in 1979; Ireland in 1990; the UK in 1991; Switzerland in 1992. In Germany, married women who accuse their husbands of rape can complain only of the violence used. In Greece and Portugal married women cannot accuse their husbands of rape, only of an affront to dignity. In Romania a convicted rapist is not punished if he marries his victim. In one of a gang of rapists marries the victim, the whole group is absolved. In ex-Yugoslavia women are systematically raped as a means of attacking their husbands, the men who "own" them.
Incidence:
According to a London survey one woman in seven is raped in marriage.
Narrower Problems:
Acquaintance rape
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
03.02.2000 – 00:00 CET