Addresing Marital Rape in Ethiopia: An Alternative Approach

  • Eyerusalem Jima Haile
Keywords: Bottom-up approach, marital exemption, marital rape, sexual violence, Ethiopia


Ethiopia is one of the countries with an explicit exemption of marital rape in its criminal code. Despite its prevalence, challenges associated with legal and socio-cultural factors are hindering a movement towards criminalization of marital rape. This article aims to address challenges of criminalizing marital rape through bottom-up approach which involves using community-based mechanisms as an instrument for law making. To that end, apart from theoretical frameworks and legal instruments, several foreign court cases are consulted. Furthermore, interview has been conducted with key and relevant individuals. Moreover, a comparative approach, by referring the practices of South Africa and Zimbabwe was employed to analyze techniques of criminalizing marital rape. It is argued that marital rape is a complex socio-legal problem and strategy to end it through criminalization is best achieved by employing community-based methods. The article affirms that marital rape is not a unique practice by a particular group or cultures; it is rather a universal problem. Thus, particularizing claim to legal and cultural causes cannot be used as a reasonable defence towards state failure to fulfil human rights obligations. Hence, culture and tradition should not be used as a defense for injustice rather; they should be used as tools to stigmatize violent behaviors. Moreover, criminalization of marital rape is an essential first step, but not the only means of addressing the problem. It is essential that criminalization measures be complemented with alternative solutions.