The Right to No: State Obligations to Criminalize Marital Rape and International Human Rights Law
51 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2015 Last revised: 8 Jun 2016
Date Written: December 15, 2015
A recent report identifies that more than half of the world’s countries exempt marital rape from criminal sanctions. The human rights violations inherent in acts of violence against women have now been well recognized. Yet somehow this particular form of gendered violence has escaped both criminal law sanctions and human rights approbation in a great number of the world’s nations.
This silence in the law creates legal impunity for men who sexually assault or rape the women who are their wives or intimate partners, thereby legitimizing this particular form of violence against women. This is a human rights problem that cries out for redress, both legally and socially.
An examination of international law and human rights norms demonstrates that state failures to criminalize sexual assault in marriage breach the due diligence standard and fail to comply with international human rights norms. The fact that there remain significant gaps in laws around the world ensuring legal impunity for men who sexually violate their intimate partners, indicates the scale of the human rights law work still to be done in this area.
Keywords: marital rape, gender violence, sexual assault in spousal relationships, international law, human rights
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