‘Marry your rapist’ laws still exist in 20 countries
Twenty countries allow rapists to marry their victims to escape criminal prosecution, according to the UN’s annual state of world population report.
Russia, Thailand and Venezuela are among the countries that allow men to have rape convictions overturned if they marry the women or girls they have assaulted. For instance, in Russia, if the perpetrator has reached 18 and has committed statutory rape with a minor below 16, he is exempt from punishment if he marries the victim.
In Thailand, marriage can be considered a settlement for rape if the perpetrator is over 18 and the victim is over 15, if she “consented” to the offence and if the court grants permission for the marriage.
In Kuwait, the law allows a perpetrator to legally marry his victim with the permission of her guardian.
Dima Dabbous, director of Equality Now’s Middle East and Africa region, whose research is cited in the UNFPA report, said the laws reflected a culture “that does not think women should have bodily autonomy and that they are the property of the family. It’s a tribal and antiquated approach to sexuality and honour mixed together”.
The report, which focuses on bodily autonomy, the ability to make choices about your body free from violence or coercion, highlighted that nearly half of women (45%) in 57 countries are denied the right to say yes or no to sex with their partner, use contraception or seek healthcare.
On being asked how the situation can be changed, Dabbous said that it is “very difficult to change [these laws] but it’s not impossible”. She further explained how the law in Morocco was repealed following widespread outrage when a young woman killed herself after she was forced to marry her rapist. Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Tunisia followed suit.
The report highlights the role of education and health providers in improving bodily autonomy, along with laws that must change, and social norms that must become more gender balanced.
“The denial of bodily autonomy is a violation of women and girls’ fundamental human rights that reinforces inequalities and perpetuates violence arising from gender discrimination,” said Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which published the report on Wednesday.
Source: The Guardian