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 Being a Married Female is a Pre-existing Condition

By Barrington H. Brennen, January 31, 2018

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Barrington H. Brennen

Marriage and Family Therapist

Counseling Psychologist


Insurance companies in many countries would not give a potential client health coverage if he or she has a serious medical condition existing before application. They call it a pre-existing condition. It is a painful reality that makes no sense. An example of a pre-existing condition can be having cancer. Similarly, being a married female in The Bahamas is also a pre-existing condition-cancer- that prevents her from being protected by the law from rape like single women and girls are protected.  The pre-existing condition of being a married female also removes other sociological privileges she enjoyed as a single woman. 


Girls and single adult females, even if the adult females are in a romantic relationship, have more protection under the law than married women.  A single woman can charge her “lover” or intimate acquaintance with whom she shares her emotions, with a sexual offence–rape. The Sexual Offenses Act in Article 1 under “Definition” states that: “Rape is the act of any person not under fourteen years of age having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse —(a) without the consent of that other person; (b) without consent which has been extorted by threats or fear of bodily harm; (c) with consent obtained by personating the spouse of that other person; or with consent obtained by false and fraudulent representations as to the nature and quality of the act.”


Note that the Article the Sexual Offenses Act continues by stating that “sexual assault can occur if the couple is legally separated, in the process of divorce, or if there is a restraining order in place.” Note  that if she is in a “normal” marriage relationship she loses her protection from rape from her husband who was once her fiancée with whom she had full protection.


The Sexual Offenses Act reflects how seriously the Government takes rape against anyone except against a wife by her husband.  Article 6 states: “Any person who —(a) commits rape; (b) attempts to commit rape; or (c) assaults any person with intent to commit rape, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.”  If the female’s non-married romantic partner rapes her she can legally file the charge of rape and the rapist can go to prison for life. If that same man after getting married to her, rapes her, she no longer can file the charge of rape, thus he will not be punished as a rapist.


Why would marriage change all of that? It did not change it for the charge of murder if the husband killed his wife. In this case married women become second-class citizens under the law.  Why does this occur in our laws?    Historically, females have always been treated this way. Although both male and female Blacks were no longer slaves after 1863 in the United States and The Bahamas, female Blacks were not given all the rights as male Blacks.  Politically and legally they were still second-class citizens. Black and White women were equal—both could not vote.


They had to fight for that right. Notice how slow the movement for women to vote in the following countries that are close to us was:  The United states, 1920; Philippines, 1937; Jamaica, 1944; Trinidad, 1946; and Barbados and Haiti, 1950; Antigua and Barbuda, 1951; Guyana, 1953; Ghana 1954; Ethiopia, 1955; Nigeria, 1958; and The Bahamas, 1962.   Why was The Bahamas one of the last nations to get the message of vote equality? This is still happening to our females today. Even with the marital rape law, The Bahamas is the last country to pass it in our Parliament.


Hence, I warn all women that just saying “I do” and signing the marriage certificate changes your status as a citizen of our country.  Her husband may not think of her that way, nor treat her that way; but the law speaks volume to the intrinsic value as a married woman and her right to equal protection under the law.


Here is another example of the sociological inequality of married females. I wrote about it in 1999 in my article, “I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife." I pointed out how during the marriage ceremony both the bride and groom are honored by the marriage officer using their first names and the marriage officer commends them both for getting married.   Then something strange happens.  At the end vows he says "I now pronounce you man and wife." Why didn’t the marriage officer say, “Husband and wife”?  Although this practice is not too often used today, it is indicative how we still think about females–as subordinates.   “I can assure you that in most cases it is an expression of our concept of who is really getting married: the woman. She becomes the bride and the man remains a man. He does not become a husband. "She is getting married to him, he is not getting married to her," said an old-fashioned Bahamian father.  


It is amazing that in 1999 these thoughts and burden where on my heart to write about.  Note further my observations.  “Traditionally, the word "man" signifies control, in-charge, strength, and leadership. Therefore, even during a wedding ceremony, the pastor attempts not to take away his leadership responsibilities. He must remain a man.


On the other hand, as a way of showing the bride's dependence and her position of subordination on her man, she is called the "wife.” Thus, we have "man and wife." Then to make matters worse, the woman’s loving character and personality is lost when the pastor flies in the final scare tactic with the words: "Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in The Bahamas I proudly present, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Silver." Then we hear the applause. But where did the wife go? I thought she had a name! All through the ceremony the pastor was addressing the bride directly by using her name. After the legal and religious ceremonies are over, all of a sudden she does not exist. She loses all identity. How shameful, unfair, wrong, and unacceptable!  I join all females today to fight for their rights to be equal under the law. 


We must not let the violence of rape continue to devalue females and especially, married females.   Remember, rape is an act of violence, power, and control. Marital rape is not an imaginary notion, construed in the minds of lawyers or politicians who want to please international agencies that we, as Bahamians, follow blindly. No way. Marital rape is a reality.  It happens and we must have laws that protect spouses’ rights and well-being and allow them to file charges of rape. The longer we take to debate the topic and to pass the law, the more we are re-victimizing the rape victims in our society.   Yes! Marital rape is a blow to Family Life because it destroys the dignity, value, and personhood of a woman.


Husbands who are rapists should be treated no differently than single men who rape women. It is not a lesser crime than stranger or acquaintance rape.  The painful part about marital rape is that it is perpetrated by a supposedly “intimate partner,” with whom one has invested trust and exposed the most vulnerable parts of oneself–both emotionally and physically.  It is like a Praying Mantis not being aware that his lover will actually devour him–eat his head off--after having sex. What a shame!


It is time for the State to stop carrying “the Church’s water.” The Government should not allow the Church to sway in changing the wording of the law from rape to “aggravated sexual abuse.”  Rape is rape. A good husband WILL NOT rape his wife.  Let us not be found guilty in the court of probity of committing passive violence against married women.




Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com   or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org   or call 242-327-1980



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