SINGAPORE: Husbands who force themselves on their wives would be deemed to have committed a crime as the Government accepts the recommendation of the Penal Code Review Committee to repeal marital immunity for rape to protect all women from sexual abuse.
In a press release issued on Monday (Feb 11), the ministries of Home Affairs and Law said that the repeal was one of the review committee’s proposals published last September, followed by engagement sessions with stakeholders from various sectors.
The release came as the first reading of the Criminal Law Reform Bill was made in Parliament the same day.
The bill introduces amendments to the Penal Code, which had its last major review in 2007. It also amends other laws such as the Criminal Procedure Code, the Children and Young Persons Act and the Women’s Charter.
Members of the public and representatives from the religious, legal and social sectors strongly supported the repeal. There were, however, some who expressed concern the amendment could adversely affect the marriage institution and potentially lead to an increase in false allegations of rape.
In response, the Government agreed with the review committee that all women should be protected from sexual abuse regardless of whether they are married to the perpetrator. “This reflects society’s view that marriage is a partnership between equals,” the ministries said.
As for concerns of false allegations, they said all cases of alleged rape are subject to the same level of evidentiary rigour during investigation and prosecution. There are also existing offences in the Penal Code that adequately address and deter false reporting, they added.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam had also pointed out last September that Muslim scholars were consulted and the understanding was that the proposal would have no contradictions with Islamic beliefs.
“The Muslim community, in reactions we had in our consultations, has taken a similar approach in today’s Singapore - that the woman’s autonomy should be respected and all religions, including Islam, do not prohibit that. But it’s something we need to engage and explain much more,” he said then.
As part of the review, the committee also recommended that the definition of rape be expanded to include non-consensual penile-anal penetration.
Representatives from the social sector, however, made the argument that non-consensual penile-oral penetration should also be included.
The ministries said the Government will expand the definition of rape to include both definitions. This includes situations where a woman forces a man to penetrate her vagina, anus or mouth, the ministries said.
The law currently states the definition of rape as “any man who penetrates the vagina of a woman with his penis”.
"The amendments to the Penal Code will ensure that all persons are protected from rape and other types of sexual assault regardless of gender," the ministries said.