S’pore govt set to repeal marital immunity for rape under Criminal Law Reform Bill

Sex without consent is rape, married or not.

Matthias Ang | February 11, 08:18 pm


The Singapore government intends to repeal marital immunity for rape, to protect all women from sexual abuse.

According to a joint press release by the Ministries of Home Affairs and Law on Feb. 11, the decision was done on the grounds that “all women should be protected from sexual abuse regardless of whether they are married to the perpetrator.”

The government further stated that this was a reflection of society’s view “that marriage is a partnership between equals.”

The repeal is part of the Criminal Law Reform Bill which introduces amendments to the Penal Code so that it remains relevant and up to date.

The Bill is based on reviews conducted by the Penal Code Review Committee (PCRC), which gave recommendations aimed at enhancing protection for vulnerable victims and tackling emerging crime trends, among others.

Repeal will “provide equal access to protection for sexually abused wives”

The PCRC elaborated that while married partners:

“…have conjugal rights over each other, such rights should be exercised reasonably.”

It further highlighted that in a situation where a married woman experiences sexual violence and grave harm at the hands of their husbands, the woman should have the same access to protection as an unmarried woman.

As such, the PCRC has proposed that the entirety of Section 375(4) in the Penal Code, which provides for marital immunity, be repealed entirely.

Here’s how Section 375 (4) currently follows:

No man shall be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) against his wife, who is not under 13 years of age, except where at the time of the offence —

(a) his wife was living apart from him… …

(b) his wife was living apart from him and proceedings have been commenced for divorce, nullity or judicial separation, and such proceedings have not been terminated or concluded;

(c) there was in force a court injunction to the effect of restraining him from having sexual intercourse with his wife;

(d) there was in force a protection order under section 65 or an expedited order under section 66 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) made against him for the benefit of his wife; or

(e) his wife was living apart from him and proceedings have been commenced for the protection order or expedited order referred to in paragraph (d), and such proceedings have not been terminated or concluded.”


Addressing the issue of false allegations

On concerns of the repeal potentially leading to false allegations of rape, the government added in the press release that there are existing offences in the penal code to deter such actions.

Additionally, cases of alleged rape are subject to the same level of evidential rigour during investigation and prosecution.

The PCRC also addressed the issue by pointing out that under Section 376 of the Penal Code, the offence of sexual assault by penetration did not carry marital immunity, despite carrying the same punishments as rape under Section 375.

However, despite the potential for abuse, the PCRC highlighted:

“The fact that there is no known history of such accusations suggests that the link between a repeal of marital immunity for rape and increase in false accusations is tenuous at best.”

Support for the repeal is generally strong

On concerns over how the institution of marriage would be affected, the government noted that the repeal had received strong support from members of the public and representatives from religious, legal and social sectors.

Channel NewsAsia also quoted Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam as stating that Muslim scholars had been consulted about the repeal and the understanding was that it would not contradict Islamic beliefs:

The Muslim community, in reactions we had in our consultations, has taken a similar approach in today’s Singapore – that the woman’s autonomy should be respected and all religions, including Islam, do not prohibit that. But it’s something we need to engage and explain much more”.

The government has since agreed with the PCRC’s proposal to repeal Section 375(4) of the Penal Code.

It has also agreed with the PCRC’s stance that while married “…have conjugal rights over each other, such rights should be exercised reasonably”.

Top photo via Chris Page Flickr

About Matthias Ang

Matthias is that annoying guy whose laughter overshadows the joke.

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