Friday, September 30, 2022

Relationship: Does The Rule Of “Sexual Consent” Still Apply For Couples In Relationship?

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Some others put it bluntly this way: Can a wife be raped by her husband? (Or the version I prefer: can a man be raped by his wife?) The recent revival of the Kemen-TBoss issue during the recently concluded Big Brother Naija has brought the issue of sexual consent to the fore-mind of Nigerians. Feminists, activists, macho men, religion followers, fading celebrities in desperate need of soundbites, cowards hiding behind the anonymity of the internet and even yours truly have waded into the issue. But while the discussion has been built around relatively sexual strangers, why don’t we ever discuss the issue of consent in committed relationships like marriage. True, you scarcely hear any report of such but the absence of evidence has never been the evidence of absence.Firstly, what is the law of sexual consent? Different cultures and constitution have their unique definitions but it is all built around these true words “any attempt of sexual action that involves contact without the conscious consent of the intended partner with his/her intact mental capabilities amounts to a criminal offence.” Forgive me if my law definition is a bit sketchy because I am a medical graduate, not law. But one thing law and medicine have alike is they are both front row witnesses to the sorrows and damage the disregard for this law can cause.Feminists and activists will argue that sexual consent is still required in marriage, religion fanatics and conservatives argue otherwise. But where does the law and common sense stand on this? Although sometimes the law and common sense are usually on the same side of the social spectrum, this is one of those cases where they are as distant as possible.In most civilised nations, marital rape, as it is called, is a double dose of domestic violence and sexual assault punishable by law. But in our beloved Nigeria, the legal system does not recognise marital rape and the reason is that by section 6 of the Criminal Code, only carnal connection which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife will be unlawful. Section 6 of the Criminal Code defines unlawful carnal knowledge as carnal connection which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife. Since unlawful carnal knowledge is an element of the offence of rape, it follows that sexual intercourse between a husband and wife cannot constitute rape.The whole law terminology jargons gave me headache too. But here is the gist: for a rape to occur by Nigeria’s legal definition, there has to be carnal knowledge between the couple. But the constitution says carnal knowledge occurs only between unmarried couples because once you are married, sex is no longer just carnal but a compulsory rite of marriage. The real truth is that the law believes that once a woman enters into a marriage contract, she gives her consent to all future acts of intercourse which she cannot subsequently revoke.So there you have it. There is no law protecting women (and men) against marital rape in Nigeria. Does it make sense? NO! Am I surprised? Bigger NO! Afterall, we still live in a country that is yet to get to grips with the truth that her laws are repressive despite parading herself as a civilised society.Photo Credit: Getty

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