Marital rape law covered in Malawi controversial Marriage Bill

A bill that Malawi Parliament passed banning child marriage, raising the minimum age to 18  and updated the laws on marriage and divorce, included making rape within marriage explicitly illegal.

Kaliati:t Where were they when we were passing the bill?

Kaliati:t Where were they when we were passing the bill?

One of the more controversial elements of the bill refers to marital rape.

While confirming conjugal rights in marriage, the law states that a spouse may refuse to have sex “on reasonable grounds”.

Reads the bill: “A spouse has the right to a sexual relationship with the other, except on reasonable grounds such as poor health; if she is recovering after giving birth; if he/she is recovering after surgery; if he/she has reasonable fear that engaging in sexual intercourse is likely to cause physical or psychological harm to either spouse; or if there is need to reasonably respect custom.”

Critics argue that the current penal code, which makes a man guilty of rape if he ‘unlawfully had carnal knowledge of a woman without consent’, implies that it is possible to have lawful sex without consent.

“This is interpreted by many to mean when the parties are married,” a person commenting on Nyasa Times article which posted the bill observed.

The bills also state that a husband will commit the offence of rape “if he is on separation from her wife and has sexual intercourse with her without her consent.”

It is believed that there is widespread rape within marriage in Malawi but reporting it is widely regarded as taboo.

Nyasa Times understands that “marital rape” is a major cause of health problems among married women, including women who have died as a result of coerced sex soon after giving birth.

Women activists argue that there must be an agreement on sexual activity.

Although sometimes withholding sex is used a weapon, especially by women against men, activist says “this can be sorted out through communication and understanding.”

MCP spokeswoman Jessie Kabwila who helped push for the new legislation said the passing of the law was “great for Malawi” particularly banning child brides, saying the law would help boost development in one of the world’s poorest countries.

But the chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, Peter Chakwantha, has accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of bulldozing parliament in passing the Marriage Divorce and Family Relation Bill.

He said government flouted the newly adopted standing orders which, among others, stipulate that a bill passes through his committee before proceeding for debate in National Assembly.

“The way the bill was presented and the manner in which debate on it was moderated leaves some of us feeling short changed,” said Chakwantha, as quoted in the local press.

Minister of Gender, Patricia Kaliati, who tabled the bill, dismissed the claims.

“Who didn’t follow the procedures? Which legal affairs? In fact where were they when we were passing the bill? The members should not point fingers at government on the issue because they were also part and parcel of it,” retorted Kaliati.

The enactment of the Bill will repeal several laws related to marriage, divorce and maintenance “that are scattered across several Acts.”

It is expected to soon be signed into law by President Peter Mutharika.

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Ndiye apa tsikana asakwatiwe atasiya school panjira koma adikire atakwanitsa zaka 18 ,lero atsikana ambiri akutha nsinkhu ali ndi zaka 12 ,basi azingokhala pankhomo zaka 6 eeeee chilango. Kukwatiwa ndi ufulu wa munthu ganizani bwino kutsogoloku kudzakhala mahule ambiri , mabanja adxasowa .


It is time for a revolution to uproot all the wicked ones and burn out these evil government officials who is guilty of oppression and robbing the poor and enforcing their religious cult of democracy of man making his own laws and disrespecting the laws of YAH the mighty one of Israel the creator of heaven and earth. When a tree bears bad fruit it is chop down and burn. These wicked men that destroy our woman because of their greed.

Proff. Ngangabulawayo
Proff. Ngangabulawayo

Yes, I can foresee many marriage breakdowns in future becoz of such stupid laws which are one sided. Women will kill their husbands especialy those who have assets and liabilities, whether you like it or not.

Malawi male MPs, whether on Govt side or opposition, are a big disappointment. You are so myopic and selfish. Why do allow useless laws like this to pass? The Last Parliament passed a Wills and Inheritance Law that portrays a woman as a victim and aims to protect her. But look here – a lot of women these days are wild. You will be shocked to learn of the experiences of most families that have lost their male relatives at the hands these wicked these women. I have a bitter experience Why can’t you borrow a leaf from Kenyan MPs… Read more »

If u want to see the true results of this laws go to RSA and see if one of the poorest country in the world can manage the consequences brought about by this laws,men will get arrested by falsely accused by their wives yo seize property,mark my words,and husbsnds out of anger gonna kill their own wives and themselves.wait and see.


That’s why u rich ppl u don’t keep marriag just becouse u want to rural ur husbands telling them what to do. Mai kaliati here in the rural area things doesn’t work that way that’s why u see our marriage it last longer than u rich pple. So live us alon with ur stupid laws give them to ur children and ur ppl at ur area wherever u come from. Sis woman.


Mayi kaliyati mwachita kuasanduka ngati njoka ya chipili kenaka mufunaso kutisithila malamulo akunja. Malamulo amanewo anawalephela aku south africa, ana akukula opanda bambo wawo. Amuna ambili mu south africa ali kundende chifukwa cha muchitidwe umenewo wankhanza. Mai musatiwonongele dziko chifukwa choti mukutsamba mkaka, kusitha nkhope ngati kuti mufuna kusanduka mukaladi or mu indian.

Paul Dolezar

Does the act deal with rapists like Reverend Father Dasiano Muhime

The comments here are indicative of the stupidity and backwardness of Malawian men. Rape is wrong within and outside of marriage. Do you not understand this? You do not have the right to do whatever you want with somebody elses body. Marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership and is not supposed to be based on fear and intimidation. No wonder our country is going to the dogs. Idiots living in 1799 in a 2015 world. You fools need to join this century and stop living in the past. Do you know how much rape hurts….I guess not. Stupid… Read more »

Chifukwa chamalamulo ngati amenewa ndi chifukwa chake azimayi ambiri aku south africa sakwatiwa amazimva kamba koti malamulo amawakomela. Mabanja ambiri azitha chifukwa chamalamulo anu opusawo. Izi nzolimbikitsa uhule mmanja chifukwa mzimayi angathe kuchita chiwerewere ndi mamuna wina kufika kunyumba kukana kugona ndimamuna wake chifukwa watopa kale.

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