I was watching a Nigerian TV programme and the discussion was, “Can a man rape his wife”? Whenever that question comes up, I am always gobsmacked by the responses I see. One of the presenters on the show said that according to the Nigerian constitution a man cannot rape his wife. In response to that, someone tweeted, “Thumbs up to those who drew that part of our constitution. How the hell do you accuse me of having what is naturally mine”? Sadly, he is just one of the many people that believe that a woman surrenders her Vagina to a man after marriage.
So I looked up the constitution and in the Nigerian Criminal Code, Section 357 states that, “Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her consent, or with her consent, if the consent is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false and fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act, or, in the case of a married woman, by personating her husband, is guilty of an offence which is called rape.” This suggests that only men rape and a woman cannot rape a man.
Section 6 of the Criminal Code defines unlawful carnal knowledge as that which takes place otherwise than between husband and wife; and the offence is complete upon penetration. In other words marital rape is not an offence in Nigeria. A husband cannot rape his wife.
This means a man can forcibly have sex with his wife and will not be guilty of rape. But if done to another woman, (not his wife) the same act will be seen as rape. Why? Culturally it is believed that the moment the man pays the required bride price, for the woman he owns her thus, the woman, including her body belongs to her husband. It is also believed that once a woman gets married, she automatically gives her husband total control over her vagina thereby consenting to each and every act of intercourse with her husband and she cannot subsequently revoke it unless by an order of a court or a separation agreement. Also religion says “the two shall become one flesh.” Which means the wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and vice versa.
I think it is for these reasons that the law does not recognize it as a crime, if a husband has sex forcefully with his wife without her consent, because he owns her and he is free to have her anytime he so pleases.
But then I asked someone, is sex a right in marriage? I don’t think so. The fact is that, you do not own anybody. You do not own a woman’s vagina, just because you are married to her.
Sex in marriage is something that should be done out of love and not out of duty.