Under Arizona law, a person can serve no more than 1 1/2 years in prison for spousal rape, says the Associated Press. Prosecutors in Coconino County, say the disparity between spousal rape and assaults not involving spouses is unconstitutional. They have charged a 45-year-old husband under the usual sexual assault statute, setting the stage for a fight over whether Arizona’s spousal rape law violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees.
Advocates for domestic violence victims say Arizona has among the most disparate laws when it comes to spousal rape. “It treats victims differently solely because of their marital status,” said Keli Luther, lead counsel for the Crime Victims Legal Assistance Project in Arizona. “We think this is really archaic.” Only about half of states make no distinction between rape involving spouses and non-spouses, says to the American Prosecutors Research Institute, the research arm of the National District Attorneys Association. Many spousal rape laws, drafted in the 1970s, were the first recognition that it was possible to rape a spouse at all. Historically, wives were considered the their husband’s property, and it was widely believed that wives had certain marital obligations.