The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has distanced itself from the parliamentary remarks made by its Deputy Chief Whip Elma Dienda on the 27th of April, that there was no such thing as ‘’spousal rape’’ while contributing to discussions on the Combating of Rape Amendment Bill in the National Assembly. According to the party, these are her personal opinions, not those of the PDM.
McHenry Venaani, President of the PDM, emphasizes that his party ‘’accepts and appreciates rape to be understood as the unlawful insertion of the genitalia or any other object into another person without their consent, and marital rape to be any unwanted sexual intercourse or penetration obtained by force or when is unable to consent.’’
He adds that the most commonly-cited reason for this exemption of marital rape from the general crime of rape concerns the nature of marriage and that the theory is that upon marriage, a woman gives a blanket consent to sexual intercourse with her husband for the duration of the marriage.
‘’The PDM recognizes that interpreting the marriage vows as an agreement to sexual intercourse at any time, under any circumstances, for years to come, regardless of whether the husband is drunk, violent, or abusive is outrageous. As a result, the PDM completely disagrees with this interpretation. Although the PDM agrees with the Honourable Dienda that proving rape within the framework of the marital institution can be difficult in some cases, the PDM believes that rape occurs even in marriages.’’
Historically, in patriarchal societies, a married woman had no control over her body and sexuality, as her husband would determine when to engage in sexual intercourse which means, a married woman’s power to negotiate sex was at the discretion of her spouse. Subsequently, the notion of rape in marriage was not recognised.
This view is also reinforced generally by religious and cultural notions that a wife must submit to her husband’s will. This view is further perpetuated by Roman-Dutch Law which does not recognize marital rape. Although Roman-Dutch Law is the general philosophy of law that Namibia follows, there are laws legislated under that system.
Venaani emphasises that the laws are clear on rape in terms of Combating of Rape Act, whether in marriage or not, the PDM recognizes that flawed and outdated definitions of rape perpetuate a dangerous culture such as victim blaming across the country and the world.
Whilst the law in Namibia may be clear that sex must be consensual, he says, this does not always translate into day to day life.
The popularization of a sexual conquest culture in our society, which promotes hyper masculinity and the glorification of sexual conquests, perpetuates the idea that men should have access to women’s bodies for their own gratification. This, along with the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality and the we’re just having some fun adage warps sex into something that is in most instances done by men to women, without regard for the woman’s sexual happiness or wellbeing. This toxic culture that encourages men to view women as passive sex objects needs to be addressed.
However, PDM also recognizes that this is not innately exclusive to men as there are also instances in which men can be raped by other men or even by women.
Dienda had stated “I am one of the people who do not support the thing of husband and wife claiming to be raping each other’’, emphasising that one cannot not deny your partner his right [to your body].
Dienda’s statement was immediately objected to by Swapo Party parliamentarian, Patience Masua, who stated that spousal rape was a crime and that Dienda’s statements diminished and mocked the ordeal of survivors and victims of spousal rape.