Marital rape, the term itself, confuses many people. Is it actually rape if it happens between husband and wife? Most people believe that there is no such thing as rape within a marriage, others believe that a husband forcing himself onto his wife is no big deal; in fact, it is his right. Then, there are people like me, who strongly condemn forced sex, whether it is within or outside of the institution of marriage.
Many people use Islam to justify the act of marital rape. However, according to Islamic views, a husband and wife are supposed to be considerate towards each other’s feelings and their bond is formed on mutual respect. Islam goes on to make clear that harming a wife is one of the cruellest acts. Men are urged to make sure that they treat their wives with kindness, which means that rape and abuse of any kind (verbal, physical or psychological) is outright objectionable. This sentiment is believed by Dr. Jamal Badawai, a well-known author, activist, preacher and speaker on Islam:
“Any excess, cruelty, family violence, or abuse committed by any Muslim can never be traced, honestly, to any revelatory text (Qur’an or hadith). Such excesses and violations are to be blamed on the person(s) himself, as it shows that they are paying lip service to Islamic teachings and injunctions and failing to follow the true Sunnah of the Prophet.”
Even today, in some parts of Pakistan, domestic violence, which would include marital rape, is not recognized as a crime. For example, the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015, which was recently tabled in the Punjab Assembly and referred to a Standing Committee, does not even include a definition of domestic violence and makes no mention of sexual violence. According to eminent human rights activist and lawyer, Hina Jilani, “The bill is simply a procedural document that lists how battered woman should be provided protective services, which doesn’t even provide them a way to seek justice.” However, I would like to point out that it is not bad news all around. In the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, governments have enacted legislation on domestic violence which clearly makes violence against women a criminal offence.
The bigger problem here is the cultural belief that succumbing to the husband means that the woman is proving herself to be a “good” wife. Because notions like these are fed to women and girls since the time of their birth, women and girls are unaware of the fact that they have the right to say no to sex if they want to. As a result, when women are raped within their marriage, even they themselves cannot understand whether that constitutes as forced sex or not. As a result of this cultural misinterpretation, cases of marital rape are often invisible and unregistered, but with the growing number of cases of marital rape, reports from hospitals have shown that married women who come in to see doctors after being sexually abused, face severe kind of injuries and require close attention and care.
When a man and woman decide to get married, it is in the hope that they will be respectful towards each other and respect each other’s needs and wants. Hence, the concept is simple: when a man forcefully abuses a woman, he leaves no space for love and respect. What he does leave, however, is a woman who is a victim of psychological and physical bruises and scars.