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Wed, February 28, 2007 : Last updated 13:53 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > National > Anger over proposed change to rape laws

Anger over proposed change to rape laws

Amendment implies it is acceptable for men to force sex on wives, activists say

After waging a long fight to legally protect wives from being raped by their husbands, women's rights activists yesterday expressed exasperation that the latest move to amend criminal codes still failed to address their point.

According to the latest proposed amendment, "an individual who rapes another person who is not his/her husband or wife has committed a crime".

Current laws say it is a crime for a man to rape a woman who is not his wife. Female activists believe the proposed new wording implies that rapes between husband and wife are acceptable.

"At the same time, it's an attempt to create equality between genders in a destructive way," said Matalak Or-rungroj, a law academic from Thammasat University.

Activists have long requested that the phrase "who is not his wife" be cut out in order to make it an offence for a man to rape his wife.

"Women activists have been working for a long time for amendment, but absolutely not in this way," said Waraporn Chamsanit, a human rights lecturer at Mahidol University.

Instead of giving protection to the wife who is raped by her husband, the proposed amendment lets women be easily slandered by men as rapists, Waraporn said.

Usa Lertsrisantad, an official from the Women's Foundation, said the foundation had helped women in many cases where husbands used violence to force them to have sex against their will. The wives were unable to file charges against their husbands, as the law does not make it a crime.

Research has found that 30 per cent of wives admit to experiencing forced sex from their husbands.

"In some cases, a wife refused to sleep with her husband because he was infected with HIV, but he forced her to have sex and no one could help her," she said.

A law amendment to forbid a husband from raping his wife would help eradicate the male attitude that "men own their women", she said.

"Kanya", a victim of domestic violence, said there were many reasons why a wife would not want to sleep with her husband. She has been forced to sleep with her husband in the daytime and at places not so private, sometimes before the eyes of their one-year-old son.

"Whenever I try to refuse, he always says, 'Why not? I am your husband'," she said. "It's impossible to refuse without the support of the law."

National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member Wallop Tangkhananurak said the phrasing of the proposed amendment was not correct, as the real intention was to forbid rape in all cases, irrespective of the victims' age and gender.

"The NLA will talk about the issue again on Thursday and all kinds of rapes would be considered as offences without exception for litigants who are husband and wife."

Taweekiet Meenakanit, a law academic at Thammasat University, said it was "abnormal logic" to allow a man to file a rape charge against a woman.

"I can predict one day we will find a case of a bad man joining with a bad police officer to slander a women as a rapist," he said.

Taweekiet disagrees with the activists' proposal to make it a crime for a husband to rape his wife.

"Many wives in this country still have to depend on their husbands. They might be upset by their husbands but if asked whether they want to divorce or put their husband in jail, they would say 'no'."

The man might take revenge on his wife after being released.

Taweekiet said a husband should be held as committing a crime if he forced his wife to have sex when he had a contagious disease, when his wife was ill or when the couple had been ordered to live separately.

Chatrarat Kaewmorakot

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