The continued horror of “marry-your-rapist” laws around the world

A new report from the United Nations has revealed that laws allowing rapists to evade prosecution by marrying their victims persist around the world.

According to the findings from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), so-called “marry-your-rapist” laws still exist in Russia, Thailand, Venezuela and 17 other countries.

In these countries, men can legally have rape convictions overturned if they marry their victims, effectively allowing forced marriage and modern slavery.

Many of these countries restrict the law to cases involving underage victims, deferring to the victim’s parents or guardians for consent to marry and further undermining her agency.

Though Dina Dabbous, a regional director of Equality Now—a contributor to the report—said that these laws are difficult to change, she noted there has been progress in recent years.

Several countries in the Arab world repealed their own “marry-your-rapist” laws after a young woman in Morocco killed herself following a forced marriage to her attacker in 2012.

The UNFPA described education as the key to further progress against these antiquated laws, with health providers also playing an important part.

The Guardian reports:

Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which published the report on Wednesday, said such laws were “deeply wrong” and were “a way of subjugating women”.

The denial of rights cannot be shielded in law. ‘Marry your rapist’ laws shift the burden of guilt on to the victim and try to sanitise a situation which is criminal.”

Dabbous… said the laws reflected a culture “that does not think women should have bodily autonomy and that they are the property of the family. It’s a tribal and antiquated approach to sexuality and honour mixed together”.

Though “marry-your-rapist” laws are a particularly egregious example, there are numerous other laws around the world that rob women of their agency.

Forty-three countries around the world do not criminalize marital rape, while more than 30 place limits on a woman’s freedom outside her home.

Even outside of formal legal frameworks, cultural norms limit women’s autonomy; in Mali, Niger, and Senegal, for example, fewer than 10 percent of women make their own choices regarding healthcare, contraception, and sex with their partners.

Freedom United has long campaigned against these pernicious forms of modern slavery, including specifically on “marry-your-rapist” laws in Lebanon, and we continue to fight vocally against forced child marriage and all such laws that allow it to endure.

Join the movement and add your name today.

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