Malaysia urged to make marital rape a crime

Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - Husbands forcing themselves on wives and women forced to insert objects into their private parts - these should be included in the definition of rape in the law.

This is one of the reforms that the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is hoping will materialise, following the prime minister's pledge that pro-women laws will be implemented swiftly.

The group, which consists of nine bodies including Sisters In Islam (SIS) and Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), said the country's laws should be amended to expand the definition of rape in line with current needs.

SIS programme manager Suri Kempe quoted a recent case of a father in Kangar who forced his 13-year-old daughter to insert a carrot into her vagina but was only investigated for molest.

"This is why we need to make changes to our laws - to suit contemporary notions of justice," she said here yesterday.

Molest carries a maximum jail term of 10 years, a fine or whipping under the Penal Code while those guilty of rape can be punished up to 20 years' jail and is liable to whipping.

All Women's Action Society senior programme officer Lee Wei San said women had a right to say no to sex at any time.

"However, marital rape has yet to be recognised as a crime," she said.

The group plans to write to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to arrange a meeting to discuss long-standing women issues.

SIS board of directors member Zainah Anwar said the group would send him all 23 memorandums issued by JAG in the past decade.

One of the issues to be highlighted to Najib, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, will be the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territory) (Amendment) Act 2006.

The law, among others, allows the right of a Muslim husband to claim harta sepencarian (joint assets) from his existing wife or wives upon his polygamous marriage.

"It was agreed that the law be reviewed and a draft of the amended law was prepared in 2006. However, it has yet to be tabled as the Conference of Rulers wanted time to consult their respective state religious councils," she said.

On January 29, Najib had said pro-women legislation would be given due attention and there would not be a repeat of a seven-year wait for a Bill to be passed, as what happened with the Domestic Violence Act.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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