This website is best viewed with CSS and JavaScript enabled, alternatively you can use the low bandwidth version.

Bishop calls for stronger rape laws in sexual offences consultation

Posted on: August 4, 2017 9:11 AM
Bishop Howard Gregory
Photo Credit: Diocese of Jamaica

The Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Howard Gregory, has called for equal treatment for male and female victims of rape, a clearer definition of rape, and for an end to the exemption that prevents men being charged with raping their wives. He also called for the current legal prohibition against anal sex to be removed.

A parliamentary committee has been set up to review the Sexual Offences Act and related legislation. The gender affairs minister Olivia Grange said earlier this year that the committee should “take strong positions in its deliberations to strengthen the current laws governing child abuse.”

Some church groups have argued that the exemption for rape in marriage should stand. In June, Philippa Davies a lawyer representing a coalition of church groups told the select committee that “changing the law would hurt the sanctity of marriage”. According to Newsweek, she said: “Marriage presumes consent for sex by both parties. This is why rape in marriage, that is non-consensual sex, is conceptually challenging because of the inherent presumption of consent.”

But in his submission to the consultation, Bishop Howard argued that sex without consent should be considered rape even in cases where the parties are married or cohabiting.

“Approached from a different perspective, the church affirms the sanctity of marriage and the mutuality and reciprocity of sexual intimacy within that context,” he said. “And while it is not necessary to rehearse the various reasons that female spouses / partners have offered in refusing to participate in sexual intimacy at a particular moment or period of time, it is also abundantly clear that relationships do go awry, often with the introduction of abuse of a physical, emotional, or other nature. We have seen overwhelming evidence of this in our society in terms of increasing statistics of injury or death to the victim. . .

“While concessions have been made to allow for marital rape in situations of physical separation and divorce, nevertheless, in the context of a relationship which has taken on a direction of abuse and violence, even without reaching the point of physical separation or divorce, non-consensual sex accompanied by threat, intimidation and violence ought to be characterized as rape.

“The evidence is there to show that often when domestic violence escalates to the level of serious bodily harm or death, family members and neighbours know exactly what has been going on between the spouses, so the issue of credibility of any such allegation can often be substantiated, as well as many victimised partners have the physical and emotional scars to substantiate their allegations.”

The bishop also argued for equal treatment for male and female rape victims, asking why the law should differentiate between a male victim and a female victim who had been raped in similar circumstances.

“We would do well to move from preoccupation with whether we are dealing with a vagina or an anus, a male or a female, and focus on the individual and the impact of the experience on the victim,” he said; and he put forward the definition of rape from the online dictionary.com as being “useful and reflective of the reality of rape”:

“Unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim”.

On the question of anal sex, Bishop Howard said that the anus “has always been a part of sexual activity between men and women, whether in heterosexual relations or homosexual relations.”

While arguing that sex in public should remain illegal, the bishop said that “what happens in the privacy between consenting adults should be beyond the purview of government. . . To continue to elevate anal sex to a position of priority and to criminalise it in the current manner needs to be seriously questioned as a sustainable position.”

The Bishop rejected the notion that legalising anal sex would result in “further development toward what is perceived to be the road toward liberalisation and ultimately the legalisation of homosexual marriages.”

He said that he did “not accept the cause and effect relationship” between the two and said that he was not advocating homosexual marriages in his submission.