Sisters For Change is campaigning for the criminalisation of marital rape as a crime of sexual violence in all the regions and countries where we work
In 1736, in an era when a woman was considered the property of first her father and then her husband, Sir Matthew Hale, the then Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales, declared that “a husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife…”, introducing the marital rape exemption into common law. The marital rape exemption was exported by Britain across the British Empire through provisions in penal codes and criminal laws which made it lawful for men to rape their wives. It took nearly 250 years before any Commonwealth country recognised that a woman has the right to autonomy over her own body and does not lose her human rights because of marriage.
The map below illustrates the chronology of countries which have repealed the marital rape exception and adopted laws that criminalise marital rape as a crime of sexual violence. Click on the timeline from left to right to see when countries reformed their laws. All dates are given when legislation was passed which fully criminalised marital rape.
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