Marital Rape – Ruling Seen as Move to Protect Spousal Right to Sex – Korea

A husband or a wife can no longer go unpunished for coercing his or her spouse into sexual relations. In fact, Korean society has so far tolerated forced sex in married life. But a local court made a landmark ruling Friday, recognizing marital rape as a crime for the first time here. The ruling is unquestionably designed to better protect spousal right to have sex or not.

The Busan District Court convicted a 42-year-old man of raping his 25-year-old Filipino wife, sentencing him to a suspended 30-month prison term. The husband, identified as Lee, said he will appeal to a higher court, claiming that his wife had tenaciously refused to have sex with him. It remains to be seen whether his appeal will be accepted or not. In 1970, The Supreme Court overruled a guilty verdict in a similar rape case.

The ruling on spousal rape also draws special attention from foreign wives mostly from China and Southeast Asian countries, many of whom have to endure domestic violence and other rights abuses from their husbands. The decision reflects this dire situation and growing calls for the better protection of rights of foreign spouses at multicultural households. It seems that the court has also given much consideration to the changing times in this globalized society.

In many Western countries such as the United States, Britain, Germany and France, marital rape constitutes a crime. The United Nations said in 2006 that marital rape is a prosecutable offense in over 104 countries. But the ruling is expected to touch off a heated debate as Korean society is still divided over this issue. Thus, it is necessary for the nation to build a consensus on spousal rape.

The focal point is a right to sexual self-determination. The court decision indicated that this right should be respected among married couples so that a husband or a wife can have sex with his or her spouse at his or her own will. In other words, married couples cannot coerce their partners into sexual intercourse against their will.

We have to bear in mind the district court’s position that marital rape is against a constitutional right to lead decent life and pursue happiness as it damages a spouse’s personality and human dignity. In this regard, we hope that the decision will put an end to spousal sexual violence and bring a significant change to the male-dominant patriarchal family system. We also expect that the court action will serve as an opportunity to better protect human rights of foreign wives who have come here to realize their Korean dream.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2009/01/202_38045.html



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