Is rape in marriage another error from the west?

As a citizen of Nigeria and, of course, a contemporary of the African evolution, I think that much of the errors that has been imported into our civilization in the last 30 years (by those of us who had had contact with the western way of living) was really out of a sense of duty and service we felt we owed the Black race to as much as possible help improve the standard of civilization on the continent to par with those of the first world countries. With this assumption; it becomes easy to see why our African activists keep assimilating every imported junk without caution.

If it had stopped at just assimilation; that would’ve been mild for then; the continent would’ve had a level of protection over our African moral values which had helped the generations of our grandfathers and those of our fathers thrive in their days. Unfortunately, the steady/relentless infiltration of the core of our African values (with ideas we thought worked for the West but which never really did) is at best the sole reason why Africa – at such an important time of evolution – has never been here or there and may never be here or there going forward.

At such an important time of evolution, when the continent ought to sieve out moral values that has helped in her subsistence and courageously but carefully mixed it with bankable moral values from the West which has really helped them in preserving character, competence and wealth creation; activists in the continent are instead jostling as appendages and errand personnel for the propagation of corrupt western mentalities that only end up creating more problems than it cared to solve for the African continent.

Recently, I was incited by a phrase that I considered to not only be preposterous, intentionally devious but absolutely taken out of its original context. The phrase was “Rape in Marriage.” To be frank, even though I was annoyed by this coinage; I secretly wondered what was in the minds of those who coined it. Rape in marriage; what does this mean? Yes, we know that the term rape applies to abuse and to a deliberate act of wickedness; to a crime. To wit, rape means to forcibly penetrate a woman (and in fairness to the queer; a man) WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT!

Rape is a crime that is punishable under the laws of most countries of the world because it is not only barbaric, inhumane, unintelligent but also dehumanizing. The adverse effects of rape in terms of damage to both the victim’s physical and mental health are quite disturbing. While some victims have their systems infected with STD like the case of Karen-Happuch Akpagher (who later died from the infection of syphilis she got from a rapist in Lugbe area of Abuja, Nigeria); other victims experience as damaging as torn vagina and bleeding problems, etc.

There are also the implication of pregnancy and abortion together with its concomitant effect on the career or academic pursuit of the victims. The issues of forced marriage are also major debilitating consequences and, of course; the stigmatization that goes with it. So, these are some of the reasons why rape is not only criminal but severely punishable under our laws. It becomes a completely different argument to want to apply rape as I have just described above to marriage as the context is clearly not the same.

Now, here’s what I mean. We all know that in marriage, both the man and the woman willfully consent to surrender their bodies to one another in the spirit of mutual trust. And this is why the couple is made to legalize or legitimize their consent on the pages of a marriage register. When the man was saying “I do” to his bride; that was public confirmation in the presence of the audience that he has not only accepted her assets but also all her liabilities! And the same public confirmation is required of the woman. So, once this is done; it vitiates the word rape.

It vitiates the word rape for 4 reasons: (a) if pregnancy results from such pressured sex; the man is there to shoulder his responsibility as against the rapist that skies. (b) there is no exposure to stigmatization or public ridicule that goes with such pressured sex. (c) any spouse can feel pressured to have sex when their partners are not in the mood (and should actually get it). (d) if two tribes are fighting and learn that a dangerous alien is waiting to take advantage of their sovereignty; do they not close ranks and deal with the alien first before they continue to fight?

It is so important that we get to understand my drift because marriage as it were is a contract between two individuals who felt financially, psychologically and spiritually ready to live together and minister to the needs of one another. Otherwise, we will be pushing an error whose implication we may not have fathomed or are ready to grapple with. When you signed the register, you legally permitted your husband to have your body when he needs it. That contract also qualified you to have his body when you need it.

If you signed a contract to supply some items to a client for say $2 million USD and, the following week you found that there’s been a devaluation of currency; do you go ahead to execute the job for the sake of integrity or do you chicken out and instead wait to meet your client in court for the breach of agreement? Incidentally, this question portrays the reality of what marriage is; namely a contract. So, you got married and when your wife gets sick; you go to any length to help her regain her health whether or not you borrowed money to achieve that.

Then, your wife needs sex and presses to get it regardless of whether you were in the mood or not because she knows she didn’t have to get a fresh consent for it. In all these, the man never complained or accuses her of rape. Not because he probably didn’t know that she’s both insecure and afraid of losing him or that he was unaware of her not been comfortable about his closeness with his female colleague. Now, it turns out the man is the one who is probably insecure, afraid of losing her and uncomfortable with her closeness to a male colleague and; that has turned it to rape in marriage?

The fact is this: marriage is a contract that is not only legal before God but legal before society. It is the misunderstanding of this important fact that has led to the rise of infidelity, out-of-wedlock pregnancies; STDs, separation and of course, divorce and suicide. I have seen a family where upon the demise of the man; another woman unknown to his family shows up with his children thus leading to bitter fights for his estate. For me, I remain defiantly opposed to the concept “rape in marriage” because it is simply seeking loopholes where none existed.

I am yet to see that individual who ate a whole lump of meat without biting a piece of bone! Marriage is not a lump of meat without bones and as a matter of fact; whoever eats meat without a piece of bone is probably eating freeze or canned meat and, that means death! If you cannot give sex to your spouse unless and until you’re in the mood to do so; then you are either not fit to be in marriage or not ready for it. One time, I became so depressed after I read of the suspension (because of abuse of office) of one of the female cabinet members who’d made a great impression on me as articulate and ready to deliver on her mandate.

But when I later found as I researched to really understand her saga that she was one of those who thought so lightly about marriage to the point that she disrespected her husband even in public; I forcefully snapped out of that depression because I remembered the wise sayings that: he who is unfaithful in little matters will not likely be faithful in weightier matters. And unfortunately, this young cabinet member learnt her bitter lessons when and where her sterling beauty and her sterling character (if she had any) were supposed to open greater doors for her!

For all I know, I haven’t witnessed an American election where persons who couldn’t survive marriage were elected to govern a territory. Because if you couldn’t give of yourself until you are in the mood to do so; you’ll likely always want to be in the mood before you discharged certain assignments as a public servant. And so, when talk about human right abuses let’s be mindful that there are areas where certain arguments don’t apply at all. I mean, you wouldn’t be married if you knew that you have to wait till your partner is in the mood to have fun before you get it.

Amb. Ifeanyichukwu George, Executive Director, Self-Awareness for Suicide Prevention Initiative, Africa, writes from Abuja via 08062577718