By REBECCA TORR , Posted on » Monday, March 01, 2010
WOMEN's rights campaigners are demanding urgent changes to a draconian law that they claim encourages rape.
Under current Bahraini legislation, rapists are escaping punishment dished out by the courts by marrying their victims after they have been convicted.
Victims often agree to the marriage because of the social stigma, fearing that having been raped they will be unable to find another husband.
However, activists claim that in most cases the rapist divorces his victim soon after the marriage - having already secured his freedom.
They are now calling for changes to the law so that convicted rapists have to serve their full prison sentence, regardless of whether they marry their victims or not.
Batelco Care Centre for Family Violence Cases president Dr Banna Bu Zaboon argued the current law actually promoted violence against women.
"Because of the stigma in society they (the victims) agree to get married, but it causes more problems and leads to further sexual and physical abuse and psychologically it is very damaging," Dr Bu Zaboon told the GDN.
"In most cases they don't stay married because they (the rapists) say they never intended to marry a girl they already know."
In the latest case reported by the GDN, a convicted rapist sentenced to three years in jail was allowed to walk free after judges heard that he had married his victim - who had previously worked as his housemaid.
Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society secretary general Faisal Fulad said the loophole was simply a get out of jail free card for rapists.
"Imagine he raped her for a few weeks and beat her and when they come to the judge he says if you marry her you will be free," said Mr Fulad, who is also a Shura Council member.
"How is this? It's against human rights. Even if he (the rapist) doesn't divorce her straight away there is nothing to say he won't divorce her in three months, six months or one or two years later.
"This is not correct. He should go to jail under the rape law and then if he wants to marry her or not that is up to him.
"He should be punished otherwise the law will be very weak in society and make men feel it's easy to rape."
Mr Fulad warned that unless laws were toughened up rape would remain a silent crime.
He now plans to raise the matter with the Shura Council's women's committee.
"This law is weak against rape, we need the law to be tough," he said.
"A woman who is raped will be a shame in society, so she will feel forced to marry.
"I'm sure there are many women who are raped in Bahrain that don't talk because they feel shy or something bad in society.
"This will make her physically and mentally sick and this guy will rape again.
"We need better protection for women against rape."
Meanwhile, Bahrain Women's Union president Mariam Al Ruwaie said her organisation had long been campaigning for changes to the law and had already held meetings with decision makers - including a special committee set up by parliament.
"This law needs to be changed because he (the rapist) makes a marriage agreement with her (the victim) and then a week or one month down the line he divorces her," said Ms Al Ruwaie.
"We demand another law to protect women from violence.
"We think the rapist should be punished for his crime and there should be a law that gives women more protection against violence."