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Church ‘divided’ on marital rape issue

Amid fresh concerns over The Bahamas’ inaction to criminalize all forms of marital rape, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said yesterday the church remains divided on the issue and could not yet provide a position on the matter.

“I don’t think anything would have changed because those who spoke out are still there,” said Fernander, when called for comment.

“The vanguards of the church haven’t changed. Although I might be a new face on the horizon, the leaders

of the denominations, for the most part, haven’t changed.”

Fernander said he believes a more practical effort should include reaching out to those men who are “inflicting gender-based violence” and seeking to reform and sensitize them.

“Personally, I believe that legislation cannot change behavior,” he said.

“It begins with education.”

The Nassau Guardian contacted Fernander after the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Dubravka Simonovic reported on Friday that The Bahamas is out of step with the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as it has failed to criminalize all forms of marital rape.

The Bahamas ratified the convention in October 1993.

In 2009, the Ingraham administration introduced a Marital Rape Bill, which would have criminalized marital rape in all forms.

However, due to uproar in certain quarters, with some religious leaders suggesting that the government was seeking to interfere in marriages, the bill was shelved.

Pastor Cedric Moss, who voiced opposition to the 2009 bill, said yesterday he was never opposed to the idea of punishing married men who use force to have sexual intercourse with their wives.

“I’ve not met anyone who supports a spouse being forced to engage in any kind of sexual relations that he or she does not want to engage in,” said Moss, when called for comment.

“The issue back in 2009 was how do you punish that.

“The former administration, the Ingraham administration, their plan was to simply change a word or two in the existing legislation that covers rape and they wanted that to cover a spouse being forced to engage in sexual intercourse.

“I felt then and I feel now that, that approach was wrong.

“What they need to do is they need to pass separate legislation to cover a situation where a spouse is forced into any kind of sexual relation, because it is different.

“If I come across a man who tells me that he was charged with forcing himself on his wife, I would not be overly concerned about that man around my family as I would be if it was someone who forced himself on someone unrelated to him.

“I pointed out to the then government that you have precedence in other states, the United States, for example, where they don’t even call the act of forced intercourse marital rape; they call it other things like spousal abuse, spousal sexual abuse or something like that.

“I also feel that, that kind of language is far more helpful than lumping intercourse that was forced in a marriage in the same basket with intercourse that was forced outside of marriage.”

Moss said what should be punished is “not the sex and not the intercourse, because intercourse in marriage is legitimate”.

“What is being punished is the force,” he said.

“Whereas in the case of non-marriage you are punishing both the sex and the force, because both are inappropriate.”