Here’s an interesting case. A lawyer is suspended for 9 months (is that a pregnant pause in his career?) for certifying a separation agreement that he knew the woman was being forced by her husband to sign. It seems from the Tribunal’s decision that the woman approached the lawyer to have a separation agreement signed that she knew contained falsehoods. On the basis of some of the woman’s comments and the fact that her husband phoned her twice while she was with the lawyer, that lawyer was concerned she was signing under duress. He advised her she didn’t need to and advised her against signing if the document contained falsehood, but she insisted on signing it. The NZ Lawyers and Conveyancers Tribunal then decided it was proven that the woman signed under duress, and the media turned this into a finding that she was ‘forced’ to sign it. A vague reference was made in the Tribunal decision to the risk the wife might be emotionally or physically abused, but there was no mention of any evidence to support this risk. Certainly, nothing approaching reasonable proof of this was evident. Never mind, let’s just decide that the woman was another victim of a man’s complete control so no blame can be directed her way.
This would be the problem with any written consent to have sex. Women will simply claim they signed under duress. The rape would then be seen to be aggravated by the written consent.
The general trend of men being blamed for women’s behaviour seems to be increasing. It is a return to the pre-feminist era in which the law held men accountable for their wives’ behaviour, financial and legal arrangements. This trend was heavily reflected in the law that came into force at the beginning of this month making men financially responsible for benefit fraud that their partners commit. The justifications offered in support of this law would equally apply to female partners of burglars and drug manufacturers; the female partners can reasonably be assumed to be aware of the criminal behaviour and they enjoy something of the spoils thereof. But, surprise surprise, the law was not extended in any way that might balance its intended sexism. You won’t see any woman being held accountable for her partner’s wrongdoing, no matter how closely she was involved in it. Even our draconian Proceeds of Crime legislation (which was one of the ways the state first extended the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ principle beyond the Femily Court) will protect the female partner’s share of ‘relationship property’ from seizure by the state, regardless of whether ‘her share’ came directly from criminal activity that she knew about.