Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Kersti Yllö

Marital rape in a global context: from 17th century to today

Sexual violence in marriage has a history as long as the institution of marriage itself. But for millennia, marital rape – like other forms of sexual assault – was considered a private trouble not a public issue. Early rape laws defined the assault as a property crime against the husband or father whose wife or daughter was “defiled.” Under this framework marital rape was an oxymoron since a wife was legally a husband’s sexual property.

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