Marital rape and sexual assault are crimes: The legislation should expressly state that marital rape and sexual assault are crimes and that there is no exception for, or defence of marriage in any circumstance.

‘Marital rape immunity’ remains in the law of some Commonwealth jurisdictions either as a blanket exemption or as a defence in limited circumstances, such as if force is used or the parties are judicially separated or divorced. Many countries simply do not address marital rape in their legislation at all.

Marital rape immunity is based on the outdated belief that wives cannot be raped because at marriage they consented to all sexual acts with their husband. This view is discriminatory on the grounds of sex and marital status and denies women their fundamental right to autonomy and bodily integrity and to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It treats wives as male property.

Many countries around the world, including in the Commonwealth, have abolished this exemption legislatively or by jurisprudence. The common law and national case law are not assessed in this research and to meet the good practice standards applied here, legislation should state that marital rape and sexual assault, including of married children, are crimes and that there is no exception for, or defence of marriage to these offences.

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

GOOD PRACTICE IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANT SEXUAL OFFENCES LAWS

This report lays out criteria for good practice human rights compliant laws across four areas of sexual offences legislation, namely rape/sexual assault, age of consent for sexual conduct, treatment of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults, and sexual offences in relation to people with disability.

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

CHANGING LAWS, CHANGING LIVES

Since 2015, the Trust's legislative reform programme has been analysing the need for the reform of sexual offence laws and delivering technical assistance to support such reform. Find out more about our Changing Laws, Changing Lives programme.

NEXT STEPS TOWARD REFORM: ASIA

NEXT STEPS TOWARD REFORM: ASIA

This report examines the status of sexual offences legislation in Commonwealth Asia, assessing good practice and identifying where there are gaps in protection, with a particular focus on women, children, LGBT+ people and people with disability.

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