Marital Rape: Can a Husband Be Liable for Rape Committed Against His Wife?

Marital Rape - Husband Can Be Liable - Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices Image

Spousal Procreation: A Right or Responsibility?

Article 68 of Executive Order No. 209, or otherwise known as the Family Code of the Philippines obligates the spouses to love one another, viz:

“Art. 68. The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.” The Supreme Court, in a plethora of cases said that it is true that the Family Code obligates the spouses to love one another, but this rule sanctions affection and sexual intimacy as expressions of love, that are both spontaneous and mutual and not the kind which is unilaterally exacted by force or coercion.

Procreation: A Spousal Duty?

Procreation is one of the duties of spouses. A husband raping his own wife is often dismissed as a peculiar occurrence or trivialized as simple domestic trouble in view of the popular yet outdated belief that it is the wife’s absolute obligation to submit to her husband’s carnal desires.

True, in the 17th century, the marital exemption rule, coined by Sir Matthew Hale (Hale), a Chief Justice in England, was used as a defense, which states that “the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract”.

Rule No Longer Applies

But we are now in the 21st century and this rule no longer applies. In the Philippines, a case of this kind reached the Supreme Court. The case involved a wife who filed two criminal Informations for rape against her husband and the Court convicted the latter of two counts of marital rape.

In its decision in People of the Philippines vs. Edgar Jumawan, G.R. No. 187495, 21 April 2014, the Court had this to say:

“Clearly, it is now acknowledged that rape, as a form of sexual violence, exists within marriage. A man who penetrates her wife without her consent or against her will commits sexual violence upon her, and the Philippines, as a State Party to the CEDAW and its accompanying Declaration, defines and penalizes the act as rape under R.A. No. 8353. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Rape Law Long Abolished Rule

In 1997, R.A. No. 8353 eradicated the stereotype concept of rape in Article 335 of the RPC. The law reclassified rape as a crime against person and removed it from the ambit of crimes against chastity. Section 1 of the law, which unqualifiedly uses the term “man” in defining rape, it is unmistakable that R.A. No. 8353 penalizes the crime without regard to the rapist’s legal relationship with his victim, thus:

Article 266-A. Rape: When And How Committed. – Rape is committed:

1) By a man who shall have carnal knowledge of a woman under any of the following circumstances:

a) Through force, threat, or intimidation;

b) When the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious;

c) By means of fraudulent machination or grave abuse of authority; and

d) When the offended party is under twelve (12) years of age or is demented, even though none of the circumstances mentioned above be present.” (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

Relationship Immaterial under Rape Law

Entrenched is the rule that in the prosecution of rape cases, the essential element that must be proved is the absence of the victim’s consent to the sexual congress. Under the law, consent is absent when:

(a) it was wrestled from the victim by force, threat or intimidation, fraudulent machinations or grave abuse of authority; or

(b) the victim is incapable of giving free and voluntary consent because he/she is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious or that the offended party is under 12 years of age or is demented.

The Court emphasized that the law does not distinguish between rape committed by a husband and rape committed by any other man alike, to wit:

“As above discussed, the definition of rape in Section 1 of R.A. No. 8353 pertains to: (a) rape, as traditionally known; (b) sexual assault; and (c) marital rape or that where the victim is the perpetrator’s own spouse. The single definition for all three forms of the crime shows that the law does not distinguish between rape committed in wedlock and those committed without a marriage. Hence, the law affords protection to women raped by their husband and those raped by any other man alike. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

The penalty for the crime of rape is reclusion perpetua.

On its final note, the Court had this to say: “Husbands are once again reminded that marriage is not a license to forcibly rape their wives. A husband does not own his wife’s body by reason of marriage. By marrying, she does not divest herself of the human right to an exclusive autonomy over her own body and thus, she can lawfully opt to give or withhold her consent to marital coitus. A husband aggrieved by his wife’s unremitting refusal to engage in sexual intercourse cannot resort to felonious force or coercion to make her yield. He can seek succor before the Family Courts that can determine whether her refusal constitutes psychological incapacity justifying an annulment of the marriage.”

About Nicolas and De Vega Law Offices

If you need assistance in civil or other criminal law-related issues,  we can help you. Nicolas and de Vega Law Offices is a full-service law firm in the Philippines.  You may visit us at the 16th Flr., Suite 1607 AIC Burgundy Empire Tower, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, 1605 Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines.  You may also call us at +632 84706126, +632 84706130, +632 84016392 or e-mail us at [email protected]. Visit our website