Criminalizing Sexual Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships: State Obligations Under Human Rights Law
109 AJIL Unbound 189 (2015)
8 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 6, 2016
Criminalization of sexual violence against women in intimate relationships must form a central part of the human rights agenda for achieving gender equality. Failure to criminalize sexual violence perpetrated by a husband (or intimate partner) effectively facilitates and condones a private legal space within spousal relationships where sexual assault and coercion are permissible. This legal abandonment of married women’s rights to liberty, autonomy, self-determination, and bodily security creates a class of women with lesser legal rights. The state’s insulation of marital rape from criminal sanction is also incommensurate with women’s equal citizenship and equal enjoyment of all other human rights.
We argue that international law requires the criminalization of marital rape. We point to the ways in which international human rights treaties and other international instruments can assist efforts to end legal impunities for the sexual violation of women in intimate relationships. International law establishes a due diligence standard under which states are obliged to prevent, investigate, punish, and provide remedies for violations of human rights, regardless of whether the acts are committed by state or nonstate actors. This standard provides a powerful legal tool for the work of criminalizing and ending sexual violence in intimate relationships.
Keywords: human rights, equality, women's human rights, marital rape, sexual violence in intimate relationships, gender violence and international law
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