On Harassment and Sexual Abuse: #LifeInLeggings

Over the last several days social media has been alight with personal accounts of sexual harassment, rape, sexual abuse and physical and verbal abuse which stemmed from the above atrocities. Persons, mostly women from the Caribbean, related to the world of social media some of their untold stories. What started as a flame has been the catalyst for many a conversation, discussion, vlog and even newspaper article. Many persons have now finally found the strength and courage to relay their experiences to their friends, associates, strangers – the world.

These posts have been a source of encouragement for some and a reminder to others that they are not alone in their experiences. It has also caused countless persons to reflect, do some retrospection and introspection and realise that they are or were a part of the problem. Many persons have apologised. Many have openly supported the victims and condemned the culprits. Society was also not left unscathed. We know that often at the heart of these issues is how we were conditioned and thus society was also thrown into the fire. In light of all of this, I have undertaken to set out below what the law offers to the victims of these inhumane, highly offensive acts.leggings

The Minor Offences Act Cap. 137 at Section 2 (1) says ‘ Any person who…

(c) wanders in the public streets or highways or in any place of public resort and behaves in a riotous or indecent manner;

(d) in any street, highway or public place accosts a passenger and offers to take him to the house or residence of a prostitute;

(e) loiters in any street highway or public place accosts a passenger and offers to take him to the house or residence of a prostitute;

(f) in any street, highway or public place, including a beach, without lawful authority or excuse (the proof whereof shall lie on the person accused), accosts, molests, threatens or harasses any person or follows him about;

commits an offence and is liable on conviction before a magistrate to a penalty of $2500 or to imprisonment for 2 years or both.’

Section 2(2) states that in this Section, ‘ “harass” means to

  • Use words, gestures and actions that annoy, alarm or abuse a person;
  • Insult, taunt or challenge a person in a manner likely to offend;
  • Use obscene and profane language to intimidate a person; or
  • Disturb or irritate especially by continued and repeated acts.’

A Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill is also in the works and is expected to afford greater protection to employees against sexual harassment in the workplace.

                                                                                                     – Kara-Je Kellman

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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.