In the Maldives, a right to rape your wife

The Maldive legislature tried to criminalize just some narrow categories of spousal rape — “while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court, while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court, sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease, and during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce).” But even that was too much for the President, who vetoed the bill, as Minivan News reports:

“‘The bill containing some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,’ the President’s Office stated….

“Following the passage of the bill, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef condemned the conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime and called on MPs who voted in favour to repent.

“‘With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,’ Dr Iyaz had said on a local Islamic question and answers website.”

Appalling. Still, I’m glad that the Maldive legislature is at least trying to limit spousal rape in some measure, though not nearly enough, and though the President and others are unwilling to accept even such a narrow limitation.

Incidentally, American law generally didn’t treat spousal rape as rape — though it might have been treated as a lesser crime, such as battery — until the 1970s and 1980s, which was of course appalling, too. Indeed, to this day South Carolina seems not to criminalize spousal rape absent “the use or the threat of use of a weapon or the use or threat of use of physical force or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature,” which should be mind-boggling to Americans today.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.

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