Singapore to repeal marital immunity for rape, a law that allows husbands to rape their wives, to protect all women from sexual abuse regardless of whether they are married to the perpetrator
The move to repeal marital immunity for rape is part of the Criminal Law Reform Bill that was introduced in Parliament for First Reading on Monday, 11 February.
The Bill introduces amendments to the Penal Code, to ensure that it remains relevant and up-to-date as the last major review of the Penal Code was carried out in 2007.
The repeal is one of the Penal Code Review Committee's proposals that was published last September after the review committee, which was formed in July 2016, completed its two-year exercise to review the laws and propose recommendations for reforms.
The recommendation that husbands who force themselves on their wives be deemed to have committed a crime has been accepted by the Singapore government.
A law against marital rape is a much-needed requirement as marriage is often considered a license for sex. With the repeal, a wife can withhold consent for whatever reason she wants and her husband won't be able to force himself on her against her wishes.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said that the Government agrees that "all women should be protected from sexual abuse regardless of whether they are married to the perpetrator. This reflects society’s view that marriage is a partnership between equals."
In a press release on Monday, the Ministry said that while some expressed concern that "the amendment could adversely affect the institution of marriage" and potentially lead to an increase in false allegations of rape, members of the public and representatives from the religious, legal, and social sectors strongly supported the repeal.
What about false allegations of rape from wives?
The Ministry of Home Affairs, in addressing concerns that it would lead to the rise of false rape allegations by vindictive wives, said that all cases of alleged rape are treated with the same level of "evidential rigour" during investigation and prosecution.
"There are also existing offences in the Penal Code that adequately address and deter false reporting," the MHA said in its press release on 11 February.
Following Singapore's tabling of the Criminal Law Reform Bill, the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has now urged the Malaysian Government to follow suit and repeal marital immunity for rape
"We urge Malaysia to follow suit with its own Penal Code amendment to remove the exception to the offence of rape for non-consensual sex occurring in a marriage.
"Sexual assault within marriage is a serious crime. According to available data, 11% of domestic violence survivors in Malaysia have been raped by their abusive spouses.
"We must act quickly and decisively to end this abuse. If we do not change our laws, this government will be continuing to enable abuse," WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan was reported as saying by The Star Online today, 14 February.
Like Singapore, the Malaysian Parliament too had set up a committee in 2016 to study provisions on marital rape. However, the committee ended up disagreeing with criminalising the act.
In October 2018, the Malaysian Government declared that it has no plans to amend the law to criminalise marital rape.