A rape awareness campaign’s focus shifted towards defining marital rape and the responsibilities of a husband and wife in a Muslim household.
What started as a joint rape awareness campaign by DAP lawmaker Yeo Been Yin with the All Women’s Action Society has turned into a heated debate regarding the role of husbands and wives in a Muslim family, especially focused on sexual relations. The campaign aimed to raise awareness on marital rape and a number of Muslims have found issue especially with the slogan used in the poster: “without her consent it is rape, no excuse.” The main discussion has focused on whether the concept of marital rape exists in Islam and what the duties of the husband and wife are to each other.
The discussion has attracted different interpretations of what Islam scriptures say regarding the issue. While all leading scholars agree that sexual intercourse in marriage has to be in a harmonious context, they differ greatly as to how much both partners, especially the wife, have the right to deny the partner conjugal rights and what can happen in such an instance. Islam religious scholar Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria for examples quotes the Prophet saying, “Even the Prophet says, even when they’re riding on the back of the camel, when the husband asks her, she must give.” He further goes on to say the woman has no right to deny her husband and as such this rules out the notion of marital rape. He further says the notion is of European origin and should not be followed.
Another independent Muslim preacher, Wan Ji Wan, was quoted saying, “That term (marital rape) is not accurate in the practice of Islam because rape in Islam is defined as forced sexual intercourse outside of marriage.” A notable voice has been that of Ikatan Muslim in Malaysia (ISMA)’s Dr. Norsaleha Mohd Salleh, who is also the head of the Usuluddin studies department at Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS). She is quoted saying “Let’s not forbid what is allowed by Allah just because we are angry. This means a wife cannot claim that being forced by her husband to serve him is rape as long as his demands are within the limits of the Islamic code.” According to her, the wife is obliged to fulfill their duty and serve their husband as best as she can. However, all the leaders are against violence during sexual intercourse, as it is against the teaching of Islam and civil law. Other times where a lady is permitted to deny her husband sexual intercourse is when she is menstruating, dressed in ihram, fasting, sick, or in pain.
Women are not the only ones with obligations to fulfill, as husbands too are required to fulfill their wives sexual desires including not performing the withdrawal method without their wives’ consent. This is according to Perlis Mufti Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. He goes on to clarify that rough and painful sex is forbidden and only that which satisfies both parties is permitted. The mufti also says both husband and wife cannot deny each other sex without acceptable reasons and add to the circumstances in which a woman can deny her husband sex to include if the husband can infect her with diseases or has abandoned his other roles of providing for the family. This equality view is shared by the Sisters in Islam group who cite scriptures to show that marital rape is a concept in Islam and is forbidden implicitly. They say marriage according to the Quran is built on mutual respect and love.