Narrating how her husband daily violates her, Ayofemi told the customary court at Alakuko, Lagos, that, “he doesn’t care if I am on or not, tired or not feeling fine. All he wants, is to have his way whenever he feels like it. I am tired and want a divorce” showing the tell tale signs of wounds and scars she received from her struggles with her husband in his attempts to have sex with her against her will.
Although the marriage was dissolved but members of the jury didn’t hide their unease with the word, violate, Ayofemi used in describing lovemaking between her and the husband. According to members of the jury, “a married woman has no right to deny her husband sex, at least not often to make the man get violent. It is painful that many young women are getting this thing called civilization all wrong.”
Though members of the public present in the court room laughed over the matter, with each person’s expression betraying his or her position on this sensitive subject, but the fundamental questions are, can a man rape his wife? At what point can a woman accuse her husband of raping her? What does our law and religious books say about sex in a marriage?
Going by the common definition of rape, which is forcefully having carnal knowledge of a woman by a man, can a man’s quest to have sex with his wife against her will, mean rape?
There is no doubting the fact that this topic will elicit mixed reactions both from men and women.
This is what our Senior Reporter, Anthonia Soyingbe went to town to find out.
It is a definite yes, according to Amaka Okorafor, whose marriage is just seven months old. I don’t care what anybody says, “my husband daily rapes me because each time he comes to me, irrespective of my willingness, he destroys my self esteem. He desires love making in very different ways from what I have been used to. He takes joy in rough handling me. He likes to bang my head against the bed, bite me and generally wants me to suffer physical injuries all the time,” she states.
She is not alone. Gloria Glory endured marital rape for 15 years. Sharing her experiences, she says, “It took me years, to get past it to the point I could forgive. I did forgive years after the divorce. I think it was only then, I truly got past the triggers, flashbacks and dreams where I would wake up crying. It is rape if you don’t consent to it and marriage has nothing to do with it. I am talking about becoming emotionally violent when he didn’t get his way. I am talking about refusing to speak to me for days until he got his way. I am talking about being extremely mean to the kids until he got his way. Men learn quickly that women will do almost anything to protect their children, even sacrifice themselves. I am talking about withholding money until he got his way. I am talking about punishing me or the kids in any way he could until he got his way. I am talking about making me feel worthless for not meeting his wants. I am talking about expecting that it was my job to be the commercial sex worker in the pornographic movies whenever and in whatever way he wanted it. It took me so many years to understand what was wrong. I violated many of my principles for him, because he demanded it. And then I feel so guilty about it being my fault. Looking back, most times, I feel so worthless for the things I let him do to me. It’s horrible to feel more like a prostitute than a wife”
Sexual abuse in marriage is a tough thing to judge and most men who offered to speak with Daily Independent say that there is nothing like marital rape.
Idowu Sogelola, an engineer and managing director of Rock Associates, insists that marital rape doesn’t exist. “When does sex in marriage become rape? The Bible states that a woman doesn’t own her body and vice versa. Sex in marriage becomes rape when couples don’t have any relationship and when there are elements of violence. Spousal rape is Western culture and has no scriptural backing. Sex is an extension of love in marriage and one of the cores of marriage is conjugal love. If there is no sex in marriage; that means the essence of marriage is broken down. When we are talking about some issues, we should look at it from the cultural and scriptural angles,” he states.
Andrew Ogene, not real name, is an auditor in a Lagos-based private firm. When this reporter asked his opinion on sexual violence in marriage, annoyed at the question, he insists, “there is nothing called marital rape. How do you explain that? That is just not possible! The day she refuses my advances is the day I throw her out of my house. Is she crazy? There are so many women out there who can satisfy my sexual urge. If she refuses, I won’t only throw her out, I will go and to bring another woman into my home. This is Nigeria and not America. Let us put all forms of sentiments aside; why did I marry her in the first place? If she can’t satisfy my sexual urges anytime I need her, then let her return to her father’s house or go to a convent because I am not a celibate. ”
Rape, according to Kayode Salako of Change Agent of Nigeria Network, is forcefully having canal knowledge of a woman without her consent. “Going by this definition, a man who uses force to have sex with his wife has raped her, since it is an act of sleeping with her against her consent. In some of our cultures, it is regarded as the man’s right to have sex with his wife anytime and anyhow irrespective of how the wife feels. But in the Western world, such an act would be termed, rape. Men who force their wives to bed in the Western culture and under our constitution, are raping them.” According to Salako, the issue is not generating so much attention because many women don’t come out to report their husbands to avoid public condemnation.
“It is a pity that we adopt everything Western, including their laws but, shy away from the challenges that go with such laws. Most men maltreat their wives in all ways but, because the society frowns at divorce and separation, the women keep enduring the situation until they either get killed or can’t take it anymore. There is no other name for marital rape, than violence. What do you call it when a woman starts crying and cursing her husband after sex? Often times, this is as a result of marital rape. You rape a woman when you have carnal knowledge of her without her consent and that is violence against her right to say no to sex when she doesn’t want it.”
Kennie Okeowo, like Ogene is of the opinion that spousal rape only exists in the Western world as he argues that a husband can’t rape his wife. ” I don’t believe a man can rape his wife in this part of the world, such ridiculous ideas are for the Western world. The man or the woman can’t claim rape since the two have become one. African men don’t rape their wives,” he adds.
Janet Emirien, a marriage counselor describes as being unfortunate, some of the things men demand of their wives all in the name of sex. “Most men strip their wives of all the values of their womanhood simply because they want to have sex. It is unfortunate what some men make their wives do,” she adds.
Speaking further, she states that most women are unaware of rights even in their marriages. It takes two willing minds to get the best results from sex whether in or outside marriage. It is simply about consent from both parties. It is conjugal affection and both of them must show affection towards it.”
Just like domestic violence against women as well as other forms of violence, researches show that women hardly report cases of marital rape.