My mother is no man's chattel
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Call me crazy. But I like to think that a man and a woman are equal parties in marriage: that they are recognized as equal under law, and enter into that social contract both on their own volition.
As a matter of fact, in the Virgin Islands Code, marriage is defined "as a civil contract entered into between a male and a female in accordance with law." But there are some in our community who feel different. There are those still devout in the patriarchal belief of a woman's subservience to a man and a wife's to her husband.
We are all entitled to our own opinion, most certainly. But when legislating a matter as serious as rape, where in a country someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes, and more than 54 percent of all rapes go unreported to police, opinions- especially those of a lawmaker-should be less personal and more considerate to public morality and personal dignity.
This is why Sen. Alecia Hansen's comments regarding the marital rape legislation in the 30th Legislature are so unnerving.
The senator believes that a woman in a marriage has no right to refuse a sexual advance from her husband and that the husband's further advancement, irrespective of his wife's refusal, doesn't constitute rape.
"If a woman says no," the senator said, "and he still wants something, I don't know how we can call it rape."
Sen. Hansen's own words illustrate a belief that rape should be parceled:
- That no only means no when it's being told to someone other than a spouse.
- That rape should be mitigated in definition when it involves a man and his wife.
- That a woman, in her role as a wife, should yield ungrudgingly to the sexual demands of her husband.
I would argue that wherever there exists an "obligation" for a wife to pleasure her husband sexually, there should also exist an "obligation" for a husband to respect her right not to consent.
The senator's train of though is beyond the pale. And if I may say so, it's indicative of someone who lacks the qualification to legislate on this matter.
I don't want to vilify Sen. Hansen. As a constituent, I respect her being duly elected to represent the people of the Virgin Islands. But it is disconcerting to know someone in her capacity lacks a modern or pragmatic understanding of connubial relations.
It's disconcerting to know that a female lawmaker, especially one who prides herself on being the voice of the underprivileged, of the otherwise voiceless, advocated against a piece of legislation with the potential to empower women in abusive relationships.
Senator, Virgin Island women are no man's property. My mother is no man's chattel.
- Richard Motta, St. Croix