Women Survivors’ worst nightmare: Forced Marriage To Rapists

Perhaps a good title for this article’s theme will be “sleeping with the enemy”, named after a film of the same name starring Julia Roberts in 1991.

The film’s plot is a strong reminiscent of the “victim’s marriage to her rapist” concept, for having ” fraudulence ” or “pretentious elements, including lies and acting” between both partners, and the female protagonist escaping her marriage from her mentally-ill husband, culminating in the scene of flushing the toilet on her wedding ring, since she does not “feel” married for real.

Similarly, getting wedded to the man who once raped his victim is totally pretentious, with no genuine feelings between neither partner, except only to satisfy the societal norms of “saving the girl’s dignity and honor”, although she is the victim, but such punishment lets the victim “die twice”; on the day of her rape and on her wedding day, only for superficial justifications of satisfying societal norms, without paying any attention to her deep psychological wounds which will haunt her for life.

Moreover, it is sending a subliminal message to the rapist that he can hit and run, since he will only “marry his victim on papers”; it is a legally justified moral maneuver and women pay the price in our patriarchal societies.

This article discusses the laws allowing the woman to marry her rapist in order for him to not face prosecution, and how our societies still fail to deal with the root cause of rape rather than its symptom and they still engage in misogynist behavior since allowing the rapist to face harsh punishments is more just that letting the woman die daily because she is living with the one who dishonored her once and for all.

Media is softening disasters as long as the victim is a “woman”

Many crimes are equally heinous as rape, but the crime is compounded when the accused offers to marry the survivor to escape punishment.

Sarcastically, such a crime is widespread in Turkey, to the extent of producing a global acclaimed series of “Fatmagul” starring Beren Saat, discussing a love story between a rapist and his victim, because their law pardons the rapist from the statuary law, if he marries his victim, as the Turkish parliament supported the bill on 18th November 2016, while the series were produced in 2012.

In fact, it is weird to know that such “fatmagul” series, received wide acclamation in Latin America and the Arab world, proving how the fantasy media and the realistic world issues can be mutually exclusive, since never will a woman forget that she was raped by her husband of “normal arranged or love marriage” then what about “a rape followed by a spectacle of marriage.

The law is enforced in collectivist nations which seek to satisfy the cultural values rather than the individualistic norms of caring for the victim’s psyche, since the former nations care for saving the girl’s dignity and honor only, and this is prevalent in most of the Arab and Islamist nations such as Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, Malaysia, India, and Turkey, but in Lebanon, the parliament took the first step to overturn a law that allows rapists to avoid punishment if they marry their victims. 

For example, in Malaysia, the man can go free with his shameful act if he chooses to marry the girl he raped, instead of being imprisoned for 20 years as a way of mediating the effect.

Malaysia should urgently reform the law to better protect rape victims and disallow child marriages, Human Rights Watch says in a report released early this year.

This is to prevent rapists from offering to marry their victims to escape punishment.

Tunisian protests – against forcing a girl to marry her rapist

In Tunisia, a country which cares for abolishing the shame regardless of the cause, the TV host of the show “I have something to say”, hosted a woman named Hajar, who was 8 months pregnant by one of her 3 rapists, and the presenter “Alaa Shabby”, publicly scorned the woman for refusing to abide by the law, “stating that she should contain the situation as long as her son will bear his father ‘her rapist’ name”, referring to “soutra”, totally neglecting the devastating effects on the mother and the son.

In December 2016, a Tunisian court approved the marriage between a young girl and her brother-in-law after raping her. This court’s decision caused turmoil in the country, and Children’s rights groups widely campaigned against it and called for the marriage to be annulled.

The judge in this case relied on article 227 in the Tunisian Criminal Code, that states “sex with a girl under 15 without the use of force is punishable by six years in prison, if the culprit marries his victim he can halt proceedings.”

Furthermore, It is astonishing to know that Judaism supports such act. According to Rabbi Farber, director of ITIM: The Jewish-Life Information Center, the rapist can pay 50 Shekels for the father and settle seizing a virgin, as it is apparent in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 commandment, but never divorce her, totally ignoring the fact that the woman has a control over her body and independence, as it is perceived in the modern secular world.

The question now, for the Islamic countries applying the law is, whether this shall engineer an Islamic family basis founded on “sakkan /mawadda and rahma” or “mercy, warmth and affection” as Islam pronounces in the Quran?

Worse, what if the raped woman became pregnant to a marriage which normally “is consummated on the papers only” to “save her dignity”, then how will the woman feel towards her child; affection or hatred?  And how will the child feel about himself when he grows up knowing the facts of his situation?  Will the father display any role of guardianship towards his family, if he himself called them “his family”?

Our laws are pampering the rapist and sanctioning the victim twice!

We highly condemn such a law alongside global feminist groups, for three reasons; firstly, when a raped woman is obliged to marry her rapist, it diminishes the whole concept of marriage to the only peripheral aspect of the sexual component, totally abolishing other important factors within a marriage such as the cultural, social, intellectual and financial compatibilities between both partners; let alone the love aspect that acts as the fundamental foundation for any marital success, for that how will a woman ever fall in love with, and ever respect a man, who undignified her once and forever!

Secondly, such an easy punishment is unfair, because it preserves a major concession to the perpetrator since he will only marry his raped girl, instead of facing deep harsh criminal convictions that will bind him for life for having a criminal record as of the Malaysian rapist, who married her instead of facing 20 years in jail.

Thirdly, the fact that there is no harsh punishments such as life imprisonments on behalf of the rapists, will not deter others from raping innocent victims, since marrying a girl only on “papers as the course flows normally” is as easy as cutting a piece of cake for having the “hit and run effect” on the rapist behalf, especially that the victim’s family concede all her wedding entitlements to a bargain of “selling their daughter in return of buying her dignity”, to only satisfy the cultural aspect of “saving her honor” without qualifying the act as a crime.

Amina Al Filali: Sucide.. Uproar.. Changing law

Women hold a rally in memory of Amina Filali, who committed suicide in April 2012

The case of “Amina Al Fillali” the 16 year old girl who was raped by a 23 year old man and committed suicide after she was forced to marry him, spurred wide debate in Morocco in 2012.

The introduction of the penal code of Article 475, was giving the rapist chance to escape prosecution if he married his underage victim, while he can no longer be prosecuted, except by persons empowered to demand the annulment of the marriage  and then only after the annulment has been proclaimed, as the second clause specified, meaning that the prosecution of the rapist will be due if the marriage is annulled, giving the raped woman a partial outlet for annulling the marriage herself, however, it still her family who stick to marrying the rapist to save their child’s honor.

Amina’s death shocked many Moroccan people, received widespread media coverage and sparked protests in the capital Rabat as well as other cities in order to amend this article. 2 Years later, these demands turned to be a fact, when the parliament amended the article 475.

Jordan’s aborted attempts to even introduce the law in 2016

With the classic game of throwing the public a fruit symbolizing false hope, only for the public to later discover that the fruit is rotten, Jordan expressed an intention to introduce law 308 by allowing the rapist to marry his victim, but no execution was shown to the public, especially that 378 rape cases were reported in Jordan in 2010 alone, although secrecy is the normal course for rape incidents, so that Israa Tawalbah, the first female coroner, stated that “it is way better to introduce such a law instead of murdering the girl in the honor name, for a society which places a great value on the virginity concept and the hymen to measure the woman’s moral conduct.”

In fact, it is noteworthy to mention that women who are raped should receive psychological help and societal support instead of being treated as a perpetrator of a crime she did not commit, and numerous surveys answered by those raped women state that punishing the rapist, if not for life, is the best answer to the case, instead of giving the rapist the authority to fully control his victim’s life and destiny as he had once controlled her body unwillingly.

A Researcher and Writer at Wlaha Wogoh Okhra

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