A Canadian man has been found not guilty of raping his wife because he "genuinely believed" that he had the right to have sex with her whenever he wanted, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting.
The husband, who has not been identified by name in court documents, and his wife, were part of an arranged marriage in Gaza. The wife is a Palestinian who grew up in Kuwait. After marrying in the Middle East, the couple settled in Ottawa, Canada.
The wife claimed that several times during their marriage, they had sex without her consent. However, the wife claimed that she never spoke up because she believed it was her duty to provide her husband with sex whenever he wanted.
By 2013, the couple had separated, and the couple were trying to work out custody arrangements for their children. During one particularly ugly dispute about access to the couple's children, the police were called. It was then, during her encounter with Ottawa police, that the woman was told -- for the first time in her life, apparently -- that she had the right to give consent to sexual intercourse, and that her husband had to respect her wishes, else it was an illegal act of sexual assault.
Armed with the new information, the wife told police about a 2002 incident in which she claimed her husband grabbed her by the wrist, pulled her onto the couch, pulled down her pants, and had sex with her even though she asked him three times to stop.
The husband offered up a defense that the court didn't believe: that he'd just had a hair transplant and, on the advice of his doctor, couldn't have sex for two weeks. Since he was following the advice of his doctor, he said, he couldn't possibly have attempted to have sex with his wife during the time she claimed he raped her.
However, the court found the defendant not guilty on another defense; basically, that he didn't know that having sex with his wife without her consent was a criminal act.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith wrote that the prosecution failed to prove that the husband had criminal intent -- a necessary part of almost any criminal conviction.
"I find that 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."
The verdict was met with derision by Carrolyn Johnston, acting executive director of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women.
"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."
In light of the ruling, women's advocacy groups across Ottawa and Canada are stepping up their efforts to educate women about consent.
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