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Once upon a time, a young unmarried couple lived in a makeshift bungalow behind one of my relative’s one-storey apartment. The gentle-looking male cohabitant bore a Yoruba name while the fair bosomy lady was later declared to me as a Calabar woman by our nosy domestic assistant. At that time, I was squatting in a room that stood adjacent to the zenith of the fence separating both compounds.
Since my room was architecturally positioned to poke its nose near the roof of the young couple’s wooden cottage, my ears were sometimes put in the midst of their verbal conflicts. This usually happened on evenings when PHCN interrupted power supply and our residential generator was yet to come on. Ordinarily, I had no intentions of listening to any of the loud conversations flying past my window pane from the next yard. In fact, their words were nothing less than persistent distractions that profusely begged for the attention of every eavesdropper.
But my options were limited by two things. First was the absence of power supply that could provide illumination and artificial ventilation. Second was the presence of biting insects that would attack me if I chose the option of visiting the quiet garden downstairs. The gloominess of the room was caused by the shades from nearby trees and the generator was not going to be switched on until enough persons needed it. So, I just had to work upon the desk in my room and mentally manage the noises that were intruding my privacy from outdoors. Besides, I would merely be enjoying the common benefits of nature if allowed to keep the widest window in my room open and its curtains unfolded.
One day, I was pulled into another of the couple’s conversations while working on my laptop. Usually, it was an outspoken fuss from the lady about other persons that formed the basis of their rambling talk. But this time, the story was different. It was not about their neighbours. It was not about their landlord. It was about themselves. From the discussion, the guy already knew that his lady cohabitant was sleeping around with other men within the estate and beyond. The young man that was attending to domestic work in our duplex apartment had mentioned this to me before and I had decided to be extremely careful whenever our paths crossed in the neighbourhood. I was surprised to know that sometimes, the young man would even offer the lady (with her own consent) to other men for sexual relations in exchange for favours and two of them still cohabited. It was an excellent instance of symbiosis.
But this particular day, I heard very strange words and moved over to the window to have a look and even wondered if I would have to alert our security guard. I guess the guy was feeling extremely horny while the lady was not in the mood at all. The guy wanted sex right away and the lady had gone to grasp a stainless knife to prove to him that it was not going to happen. The guy acted out machismo, overpowered her and they found their way into their house. For me, the theatre movie became a radio program – there were no more visuals. But I heard sounds of heavy plastics falling off, body parts hitting wooden surfaces and unintelligible ramblings that sounded offensive. Then, there was vast stillness and I returned to my work. While I believe that the lady did not file a lawsuit against the guy who was not legally recognised as her husband, I wanted to know if the question of rape could arise within an intimate relationship that is legitimate.
The next day, I asked a lawyer friend over phone if it was possible to accuse a man of ravishing his own wife. I believed that her bi-facetted status as a matured female and qualified barrister made her eligible to give an answer. So, I asked her if a woman could count an unwelcome sexual activity forced on her by her husband as a rape and whether or not one such action is punishable under the Nigerian law. She informed me that, considering the definition of rape as the use of force or lack of consent by one of the parties involved in a sexual activity that includes penetration, it is possible to say that a man raped his wife. Again, this is possible because a woman could be in a physical or mental state that rendered her unprepared for sex with her marital partner.