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A man was found not guilty of sexually assaulting his wife, because he didn’t know he required consent

The case draws attention to the widespread myth that men need never seek consent from their wives

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By Kuba Shand-Baptiste on

A court in Canada has found a man not guilty of raping his wife, because he was not aware that consent is still required among married couples. Ontario Superior Court justice Robert Smith ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove that neither the husband nor wife, who met through an arranged marriage, understood that consent is still required among spouses at the time of the incident. “The accused probably had sex with his wife on many occasions without her specific consent, as both he and she believed that he had the right to do so,” he said.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, during the trial the wife of the accused said that she had previously considered marital sex obligatory for women but, following a conversation with a police officer over a dispute over child arrangements after the couple had split in 2013, learnt that women had a legal right to refuse sex with their spouses.

It was then that she decided to file a complaint about the 2002 incident that led to the trial – wherein she accused her husband of forcing himself on her despite calling for him to stop what he was doing three times.

Any sexual contact without explicit and ongoing consent is sexual assault – regardless of the relationship

The husband, who vehemently denied that he had ever had sex with his wife without her consent, claimed that the incident his wife brought to court could not have happened because he had been instructed by a doctor not to have sex because he had just had hair-transplant surgery.

As the Ottawa Citizen reports, the hair-transplant excuse did not resonate with the judge, who, as well as describing him as combative, questioned the husband’s evidence, which he said did “not accord with common sense to a reasonably informed person”. Justice Roberts later explained that “the issue in this trial [was] whether, considering the whole of the evidence, the Crown has proven allegations beyond a reasonable doubt”, as opposed to whether or not marriage should be considered “a shield for sexual assault”.

Referring to the ruling as “disappointing”, Carrolyn Johnston, the acting executive director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, highlighted the dangers of failing to educate people about consent. She said: “Any sexual contact without explicit and ongoing consent is sexual assault – regardless of the relationship [...] he may have believed that he had a right to have sex with her as her husband, but Canadian sexual assault law is clear and was amended to include sexual assault against a spouse in 1983.”


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Ottawa Courthouse (Photo: Getty Images)
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