Ellen Lee and The Great Leap Backwards
I was so incensed about the section 377A issue that I forgot to speak on this other issue – the immunity of husbands from marital rape. Many MPs touched on this issue [all videos can be viewed here], coming down on either side. I am not going to bother rebutting the arguments of those who argued for the retention of immunity, as NMP Siew Kum Hong has offered an excellent argument. And I have just one thing to offer all those people who maintain that marital rape immunity protects family values: wait till you get raped by the man you vowed to love and cherish.
What I wish to speak about, is Ellen Lee’s speech. You can watch it here.
Ellen Lee, from the start, made a cogent, persuasive argument about why marital rape immunity was not acceptable. She even cited a 1998 rape case there can be rape in a marital situation. She made very good arguments about why the women who are the most likely to be victims are also least likely to be able to protect themselves under the exceptions.
And then, in a sleight of hand, she took it all back, and said that married women shouldn’t be allowed to cry rape for vindictive reasons, and hence the new law was valid. She fears a sudden change in society’s views to marriage, and for the victims, the courts are supposed to be there to judge whether the claim is valid.
She makes so many leaps of logic in the last statement that I thought she was playing hopscotch. All the way, she has argued for why marital rape immunity does not make sense, and how the proposed amendments do not protect the women who need it the most – so how does she come to the sudden conclusion that the amendments are just fine? Also, her statement about “sudden change” is rather laughable – laws do not shape society’s views overnight. They mould each other in the fullness of time, in a complex interplay of public policy and populist moves. If we repeal marital immunity, wives are not going to wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly decide to cry rape because he forgot to pick up the drycleaning.
To say that this law should be retained in order to prevent wolf-crying, is to completely ignore what rape is, and the criminal proceedings of rape. Rape is a deeply shameful secret for many women, something they carry around their entire lives in silence. Even if the said abuser is not a loved one, it takes a lot of courage to report him. What more, if it is a loved one? There is much she has to go through – she said it herself, many women are raped a second time on the stand, by the cross-examination, by the media attention, by the people around her who gossip. It has to be proven beyond a shadow of doubt she did not “ask” for it. In the first place, the police will interrogate her to make sure she is not crying rape – they will try to make her admit she “asked for it”, or that she consented to it. After getting through this humiliating hurdle, there are the lawyers, the courts, the media. Many rape victims drop their cases mid-way.
With all these restrictions in the way, imagine how much more difficult it is to report and prove the rape by a long-term consensual sexual partner? Firstly, there is the emotional barrier – they might be in love, unable to identify themselves as victims, not wanting their partners to go to jail. They might be hoping he’ll change, love them better. People who talk about crying foul, have no conception what it is like to be an abusive relationship – and how deeply the victim can be in the abuse. After reporting him, there is the hurdle of having to prove that you did not consent to this particular instance of sexual contact, after having consented for so long. You yourself said this – it is almost impossible. And by your own arguments, we know how marital rape can occur before the wife has a chance to take legal proceedings – so why are you arguing that the proposed changes are valid?
Even if a woman manages to get past all this, and cries foul… is it not the same as a woman crying foul about a non-marital partner? Should we then, take out rape altogether? So that no woman can ever cry foul about a man? It is up to the courts and judges to decide whether a particular case is valid.
Ellen Lee [and other MPs] also speaks about family values: on what basis is it good family values to encourage our men to rape their wives, to treat their wives as chattel until she takes legal proceedings? Marriage should be based on equality and consent, not archaic ideals of sexual entitlement. No one is entitled, even if it is a long-term sexual relationship.
Ellen Lee, your logic astounds me – at least the other MPs were consistent in their stand, being for or against marital rape. How do you argue for repeal of immunity all the way, and then suddenly switch to the other foot?
Oh, I forgot, you were playing hopscotch.