Continued from Part One
However, she mentioned that under Nigerian law, there is no statute that makes a husband liable to punishment because he raped his wife. According to her, the law does not recognise such a claim because it presumes that when two adults take an oath of marriage, they are obligated to each other in various ways which strongly includes sexual commitment. I think this implies that when a woman declares herself bound to a man, she commits herself to a level of intimacy that includes undefined sexual relation. This also applies to the man. So, the bottom line would be that each party keep expectations that are within what they know that the other person can handle and discard selfish excesses. But this is not always the case as most couples never get to know each other fully until they have been married for tens of years.
But I still wonder what proportion of married women accounts for those that are actually safe and happy or content in marriage since they are sometimes referred to as the weaker sex. Before I did Biology in high school, I had always wondered why the cocks I saw my grandma breed often raped the hens. I actually remember stoning a couple of cocks that were caught chasing hens around in the neighbourhood until my Biology teacher treated the topic, animal sexual behaviour, in class. Then, I realised that it was called mating.
Recently, I watched the video report of a field broadcast journalist who had interviewed the general public, including some married men in Lagos city, to know their views on the subject of forced sex within marriage. According to the visual record, people have different beliefs about sex in marriage. When asked what would happen if his wife denied him sex, a Yoruba man with three tribal marks on both cheeks replied that he would force her and have his way sexually. That’s a dangerous man. A second man, whose accent sounded Igbo, said that his wife is his property and he can do whatever he likes with her. That guy probably paid a fortune as dowry. A religious leader then commented that it was wrong for a man to force his wife into sexual relations when she is not in the emotional state or health condition to have it. Another religious leader of a different faith commented that a woman is meant to be subject to her husband. He said that she is supposed to be willing and available when her husband demands for sex. As such, the question of rape cannot arise. He further stated that once a woman has commenced menstruation, she is believed to be ready for marriage.
I guess that explains why some of my bold Hausa schoolmates were already married and wearing wedding rings when we were in primary five.
Truly, it is impossible to consider the act of rape as love-making when even the dictionary defines it as the act of using force to have sexual intercourse with somebody. Yet, it is also true, as has been confirmed by every Nigerian lawyer that was consulted, that under the Nigerian law, a man who signs a marriage contract with his woman is free to have sexual relations with her and cannot be accused of raping her because they are legally bound to have sex and no specific definitions are attached.
I think there are two sides to this issue. One seems favourable and the other appears otherwise. On one side, Nigerian marriages tend to endure in the face of diverse human imperfections and this helps to keep more families together. Unlike developed countries where provisions have been made based on human rights to check inconvenient experiences in marriage, Nigeria has several women who are sticking it out in very imperfect marriages with the solemn hope that things would change because their religions and society provide such hope. This position regularly holds when the woman’s life is not at risk. On the other side, it appears that more women than can boldly step out to be counted are involved in marital relationships that allow something such as rape and they cannot get to punish their husbands for it. These women usually stay in marriage because of their children, our culture in Nigeria and the inherent ability of an average Nigeria to endure tough times.