“Denying Your Husband Sex is Emotional Abuse”: A Look at Marital Rape Globally

Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh, a member of the Malaysian Parliament, spoke out this week during a Parliamentary debate over the Domestic Violence Act (Amendments) 2017 Bill. His opinion was less than productive. Zulkifly spoke on behalf of men and the so-called abuse they experience in marriage, saying: “Men are generally physically stronger than women so they are subjected to emotional and psychological abuse, which is even worse. This includes having a wife who denies conjugal rights to her husband or one who constantly nags.”

So essentially being denied sex is an equal if not worse offense than physically abusing your partner?

His comments reportedly drew laughs from other Parliament members. But he wasn’t close to finished. He continued with saying, “Some [men] want to marry more than one but need to get permission from their wives, who disagree and begin nagging,”

Yet again, we have a man with the opportunity to say something profound and important about men’s experiences as abuse victims, but instead decided to say something utterly ridiculous.

Clearly these comments are misogynistic, coming from the long standing belief that a woman’s body belongs to her husband. Unsurprisingly, in Malaysia, it is very difficult to convict your spouse of rape, seeing that marital rape is not technically criminal under Malaysian law, and a conviction would lead to just five years, at most, of jail time. Furthermore, the Women’s Aid Organization estimates that around 39% of Malaysian women experience domestic violence.

This sort of attitude towards spousal rape is not rare; it is intertwined with the history of subjugating women, and it prevails to this day- no matter where you are in the world.

We can look at the United States, for example, where just last year President Trump’s personal attourney, Michael Cohen, said that it is impossible to rape one’s spouse. Trump, himself, was accused of rape under sworn testimony by his first wife. Furthermore, there are 8 states in the U.S. that treat marital rape differently than rape outside of marriage. Under Ohio state law, for example, marital rape may be “charged under a different section of criminal code, restricted to a shorter reporting period, held to a different standard of coercion and force, or given a different punishment.”

Looking globally, we see that there are still 10 countries in the world where raping one’s wife is legal: Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.

In many places in the world, the tradition of marriage was rooted in the transfer of women’s bodies as property. Today, we see that we have not come so far in our attitudes towards women as we may think. Women are still viewed as commodities and sexual vessels. And because of these attitudes, even something as beautiful as the union of two people is tarnished.

 

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Grace Miller
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I am a high school student at Sanger High in California. I am an activist & intersectional feminist. My biggest hobbies include writing poetry, participating in Speech and Debate, and doing yoga.

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