KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Letting a rapist marry his child victim would effectively allow the child to be raped throughout marriage and force her to relive the horrors repeatedly, said a women’s rights group.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Sumitra Visvanathan called the Tasek Gelugor MP’s reported suggestion that rapists be allowed to marry their child victims “deplorable”, saying one of the worst abuses a child could endure is rape.
“Forcing a raped child to marry her rapist is an atrocious violation. She will spend the rest of her life being re-traumatised and denied all rights as a child.
“It will mean Malaysia allows the predator paedophile to not just evade punishment for this heinous crime, but to continue raping the child throughout the marriage,” she told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
“Our children should be safe and protected from harm. Not handed to predators on a silver platter that permits statutory rape,” she added.
She called for the federal government to pass a clearly-worded law to ban child marriages in Malaysia.
Angela Kuga Thas, executive director of women’s rights group EMPOWER, said such remarks would encourage the commission of rape.
“Rape is a crime. It is about power, not about sex. To even suggest for anyone to marry their rapist is tantamount to encouraging such crimes,” she said.
All Women’s Action Society (Awam) condemned Umno lawmaker Datuk Shabudin Yahya’s remarks, asserting that the remarks disregard consent of the women raped and “perpetuate patriarchal notions that a woman’s body exists solely for men and that she has no autonomy of her own”.
It noted that Shabudin’s comments referred specifically to underaged girls, before pointing out that having sexual intercourse with a child below the age of 16 is a crime under the Penal Code’s Section 375(g) — which covers statutory rape.
“The reality is that most cases of underage marriage in Malaysia occur so that the rapists can avoid prosecution, a severe abuse of the law,” the group told Malay Mail Online.
Highlighting that Malaysia has signed two international treaties — the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) — Awam said the federal government has an obligation to uphold Cedaw’s Article 16(2) that prohibits child marriages.
“We need to focus on how to make sure that rapists are brought to justice for their crimes instead of coming up with ways to absolve them, as well as work out ways in which to help survivors of rape in whatever manner they may need,” Awam said.
Doctors also wrote to Malay Mail Online to express their “shock and anguish” over Shabudin’s remarks while debating the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 in Parliament, urging him to retract his statements.
Their representative, Dr John Teo, said the Bill was intended to protect children or those aged below 18 from sexual exploitation, pointing out that minors are deemed to lack the emotional, mental and physical capabilities required to enter into formalised relationships such as marriage and pregnancies.
“It has been shown clearly that a teenage pregnancy has more risk of complications in both the mother and baby compared to an adult woman,” he said.
Noting that the Penal Code defines the crime of statutory rape as sexual intercourse with any minor aged below 16 regardless of consent, Dr Teo said it clearly reflected the “immaturity of a minor at this age”.
“If a child had been raped and subsequently the rapist offers to marry her, how does that accelerate her mental, emotional and physical capacity, in lightning speed to adulthood?
“Rape is a crime no child nor woman should ever endure, the emotional and mental trauma often lasts a lifetime. A minor who is lacking the critical defence mechanism in enduring such a horrendous act on her may be incapacitated and scarred for the rest of her life.
“To suggest a victim marry their rapist is akin to asking the family of a murder victim to move in with the murderer,” said the letter signed off by Dr Teo, an obstetrician and gynaecologist.
The letter was backed by one lawyer and 131 other doctors.
Shabudin today clarified that he was referring to cases on consensual sex involving minors that are categorised as statutory rape, and not forced sex that he said should be dealt with according to existing laws.
De facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said earlier that rapists will not be able to escape punishment by marrying their child victims, noting that offenders who have sexual relations with those aged below 16 may be charged under the Penal Code’s Section 376 (2), which prescribes a penalty of 10 to 30 years’ jail and whipping.