There was another case recently of a woman who killed her husband to escape from more than 10 years of ‘battery followed by forced sex,’ once again putting the issue of rape between spouses on the women groups’ agenda.
Ahn, who lives in Ulsan, had been the brunt of her husband’s physical, verbal and sexual violence and drunken behavior. He used to hit her and then force her to have sex with him. On February 11, he came home drunk and threatened the rest of the family with a knife before falling asleep. In a state of terror, Ahn strangled her sleeping husband to death. This incident, not the first of its kind, has triggered women groups’ appeal to stop turning a blind eye to forced sexual intercourse between spouses.
1970 precedent ruling that ‘a wife cannot be a victim of rape by the husband’ holds out
Must no longer ignore post-battery forced sex
Currently, Korean society has legal measures to prevent domestic violence, but the crime of ‘wife-rape’ that follows ‘wife-beating’ is completely left out of the legal and institutional framework. The concept of ‘wife-beating’ itself is unfamiliar, and most men find it hard to swallow. When the Ministry of Gender Equality proposed including ‘crime of rape between spouses’ in the Special Act on Sexual Violence, most men reacted emotionally, making comments such as “Then are we supposed to ask permission every time we want sex?” “We’ll be too scared to sleep with our wives!” or “The law will be abused by women.” Due to this mentality, the Supreme Court’s ruling in 1970 - “even if a husband uses violence to force sex on his wife, it does not constitute rape” - is still effective, making even the prosecution of wife-rape impossible.
The ‘wife-rape’ that women groups are against is normally defined as “coerced sexual intercourse in a state of spousal relationship failure such as after violence, during separation or divorce proceedings.” What women groups want is a productive social debate on the issue of wife-rape in order to protect women’s rights and prevent recurrences. In 1999, the UN Human Rights Commission expressed deep concern over Korean society’s lack of recognition of wife-rape as a crime.