The first time I heard of spousal rape was in Criminal Law class, in my 300 level. Before then, it had never crossed my mind that rape can occur in a marriage.
I remember that class was a little heated. “Should Spousal rape even be a thing?” “Are they not married and supposed to be having sex anyway?” “What if she doesn’t feel like it?” “Why should anyone deny their spouse sex?” “They are one already, so they own each other’s body”
Those were some of the arguments in that class.
Well, the lecturer told us it was a thing, but not in Nigeria. The Nigerian law neither provide for nor recognise the possibility of rape involving a married couple, and it still doesn’t.
I never accepted that reasoning, but I agreed for the purpose of becoming a lawyer, and even happily wrote down those beliefs in any exam that asked that question.
The Law described rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse. Consent or lack of it has always been the main ingredient to be considered in any rape case. No law ever mention or even implied that the relationship between the parties is a factor.
So, I’m confused and still wondering why a person’s ability to give or withdraw consent disappears in marriage.
Does anyone have answers? Please share some.
*Originally published 5 June 2020