Eliminating the conditions for marital rape to be legally grounded in Jamaica is among matters that are to be addressed in the amendments to be made to the Offences Against the Person Act.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, explained when the Act was passed in 2009, that it provided for some conditions to be met in order for a wife to claim rape by her husband.
“There are specific things that allow you to be able to claim that you were raped in marriage. It should not be that a married woman has less rights than an unmarried woman. Both of us should have the rights over our bodies, and that is what was agreed by the (Joint Select) Committee (which deliberated on the Act). So, when the Act is amended, it will delete all the preconditions for claim of marital rape. Again, it’s about respect and the rights over our bodies,” she noted.
The minister was addressing a regional conference on women’s political and parliamentary leadership at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday, during which she outlined legislative measures being undertaken to protect women.
Among the conditions attached to the offence of marital rape in the Act are that:
The spouses have separated and live separate and apart as defined by the Matrimonial Cause Act; There is in existence a separation agreement; Divorce or proceedings to nullify the marriage have been filed; Acts or threats of physical violence, harm or injury are imposed on a spouse before or during sex; The spouse knowingly suffers from a sexually transmissible disease.
Johnson Smith said the amendments to the Act will also include an offence of stalking, so that women are protected outside of relationships.
“If you are harassed by a stalker, that offence does not exist, and it needs to exist within the Offences Against the Person Act so that the Cybercrimes Act can criminalise it.
“So, whether you are in a relationship or not, if you are being stalked and you are in fear, that is an actionable crime that can be prosecuted, and you can get a protective order. You can prevent the greater crimes that usually come as a result of stalking, which (include) rape or murder,” she outlined.
Senator Johnson Smith further cited the Sexual Harassment Act, which is now in effect.
She commended the efforts of the Bureau of Gender Affairs “in working through this year of transition since (the Act) was passed to try to share some of the information about it.
“I look forward to even greater public sensitisation to ensure that the simplified information is made clear, and that people understand that nobody is outlawing flirting, but when an advance is unwanted, it is unwanted,” said Johnson Smith.
The legislation addresses concerns about sexual harassment that are employment-related, occurring in institutions, or arising in the landlord and tenant relationship.
The Sexual Harassment Act contains provisions for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, correctional institutions, places of safety, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric facilities, among other places.