Can A Man Rape His Wife?

Perhaps many people are unable to answer the question – whether a man can rape his wife and indeed some argue that as long as the woman is the man’s wife, it is not possible for the man to rape her. Others may be surprised to discover that the offence of rape is not limited to the introduction of the penis into the vagina without the woman’s consent. In light of the above, the following briefly discusses marital rape in light of theSexual Offences Act CAP 154 of the Laws of Barbados (‘The Act’) which came into force in 1992 as an Act “to revise and reform the law relating to sexual crimes”.

First of all, it would be useful to know how the Act defines the offence of rape and what constitutes rape. Section 3(1) of the Act says “Any person who has sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person and who knows that the other person does not consent to the intercourse or is reckless as to whether the other person consents to the intercourse is guilty of the offence of rape”.

Moreover, according to section 3(6) of the Act “rape includes the introduction, to any extent, in circumstances where the introduction of the penis of a person into the vagina of another would be rape of the penis of a person into the anus or mouth of another person; or (b) an object, not being part of the human body, manipulated by a person into the vagina or anus of another”.

Historically, it was believed and accepted that a man cannot rape his wife since by marrying him the woman consented irrevocably to sexual intercourse at any and all times. However, with the passage of time and the change of the status of women, this view changed. So too did the English law regarding marital rape. The case of Regina v R[1991] 2 WLR 1065 states the English position regarding marital rape; that is, there is no longer a rule of law that a wife has consented irrevocably to sexual intercourse with her husband and consequently, a husband could be convicted of the rape or attempted rape of his wife where she had withdrawn her consent to sexual intercourse.

However, in Barbados, the Act does not make such a pronouncement. In fact, the husband may only be guilty of the offence of rape in certain circumstances. Section 4(4) of the Act says “A husband commits the offence of rape where he has sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent by force or fear where there is in existence in relation to them

  • A decree nisi of divorce;
  • A separation order within the meaning of Section 2 of the Family Law Act;
  • A separation agreement; or
  • An order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual intercourse with her.

The Barbadian legislation may be compared to the Sexual Offences Act Chapter 11:28 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago. The latter does not set out restrictive circumstances in which a husband may be guilty of the offence of rape. Rather, after stating the facts which amount to an offence of rape in Section 4, the Trinidadian Act says that the section “also applies to a husband in relation to the commission of the offence of rape on his wife. Thus, in Trinidad a husband can be found guilty for the offence of rape on his wife.

In short, in Barbados, if none of the above listed circumstances exists, a man, according to the Act, is not guilty of the offence of rape where he has sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent.

                                                                                                                                         -Kara-Je Kellman

See also the article – ‘Yes! A Man Can Rape His Wife!’ for the updated Barbadian position.