Priest signs online petition to criminalize marital rape

2009-08-07 18:09:57
A Catholic priest has endorsed an online petition to criminalize marital rape in Singapore, while at the same time pointing to a “serious shortcoming” in Church teachings on the issue.

The ‘No To Rape’ website

Immaculate Heart of Mary Father Paul Staes, 72, signed the petition last month after receiving an email from a friend about the “No to Rape” campaign ( The friend had wanted to find out the Catholic Church’s stand on marital rape. According to the “No to Rape” team, it is collecting signatures and personal statements in the hope of repealing the marital rape immunity of husbands toward wives in Singapore. The petition will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office in October. The team’s core members have been paying attention to this issue for a long time, having noted that legal amendments in 2007 did not offer married women full protection from such violence. Wong Pei Chi, 25, one of the core members, said the team believes non-consensual sex is always violent and should be criminalized. Reflecting on the issue, Father Staes, a moral theologian, said the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” addresses issues such as adultery, divorce and polygamy, but marital rape is not “being considered,” which is a “serious shortcoming.” He explained that it can be inferred from the catechism that the meaning of sexual intercourse excludes all use of force and disrespect. Nonetheless, there are probably some Church people who argue there is no such thing as marital rape as the wife must respect the “marital rights” of the husband and be submissive to him, he added. “Personally, I believe, from an ethical viewpoint, violence against one’s own spouse is actually more reprehensible than against a third party because of the promised bond of love and care that exists between spouses,” he wrote in his comments on the “No To Rape” website. Dominican Father David Garcia, 42, another moral theologian, explains that the Church considers all forms of rape as “intrinsic evil” and wrong. The moral aspect of marital rape is clearly wrong and ideally should be criminalized, he said. The priest said, however, that he is in “no position” to suggest how such a law should be implemented. Other religious leaders have also voiced their support for this petition. They include Bhante Dhammika of the Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society, Reverend David Burke of the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church and Reverend Doctor Yap Kim Hao from the Free Community Church.

Father Paul Staes -- Photo by Daniel Tay

Marital violence, including marital rape, would be completely contrary to everything the Buddha said concerning marriage –- that a husband and wife should “honor and respect” each other, said Bhante Dhammika in his comments on the website. An anonymous signatory said that she had been a victim of marital rape. Her husband had hit her and then demanded sex. “All I could do was cry and submit and then forever remain silent,” she wrote. According to Wong, no public data is available for marital rape as it is “technically not a crime and social stigma prevents victims from sharing their experience.” However, the issue concerns Singaporeans of all backgrounds, Wong added. More than 1,700 signatures have been collected as of Aug. 7. A Subordinate Courts Research Bulletin released in 2003 stated that 1,504 personal protection orders were taken out with regard to family violence. Another, released in 2004, cited violence as the second highest factor for women divorcing their husbands. The topmost factor was breakdown in communication.
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