Taking Rapists To Task

PUTRAJAYA: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will intervene before any individual charged with rape is allowed to marry the victim, said its minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim.

Referring to the case of a 22-year-old man in Sarawak whose rape charges were dropped after he married his 14-year-old victim, she said the matter should not have happened as rape was a serious offence and the offender should be sentenced if found guilty.“Marriage of underage girls must have the permission of the family, Syariah Court and mentri besar of the state.“As such, the ministry through the Social Welfare Department will intervene to prevent such marriages,” Bernama quoted Rohani as saying at a press conference here yesterday.

 On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the man escaped a prison sentence in Sarawak last year after he married his victim.The court proceeding was discontinued after the man produced a marriage certificate and the girl withdrew the complaint.Rohani said the ministry had been informed that the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) would request that the High Court review the case.

“A rape case is still a rape case. The offender must be sentenced if he is found guilty and the case cannot be dropped by marriage,” she said.The ministry was concerned over this matter and the public should be aware of children’s rights, she added.

In Kuching, women’s groups want better protection for underaged rape victims, including putting a stop to child marriage.Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) vice-president Ann Teo said the DPP’s office had absolute discretion on whether or not to continue prosecuting the charge against the man, even if he had married the victim.

“Before withdrawing such charges, DPPs and judicial officers who are trained in sexual abuse, including child abuse, should go one step further to ensure that the child victim or rape survivor knows and is aware of the decision that she is making and that she is being counselled and supported.“Our courts and judicial system should be child-centric in such cases. The fact that the girl has contracted a legal marriage does not absolve the fact that she was raped,” she told The Star.In light of this case, she urged Malaysians to ask themselves if marriages of underage children – those below 18 – should be made illegal.

Sarawak Women and Family Council member Wendy Terang said the marriage could not be allowed to take place because the girl, now 15, was still underage.“Are we legalising statutory rape through marriage now? If so, we’re creating a very dangerous precedent. We must remember that the law is there to protect minors who are deemed incapable of giving valid and informed consent.“Society at large, prosecutors and the court all have a role to play to ensure the safety of our children and that the law is upheld,” she said.Wendy also urged the prosecution to prosecute this case to the fullest, citing the case of the restaurant manager in Sabah as an example.

In 2014, the Kota Kinabalu Sessions Court sentenced him to 12 years’ jail and two strokes of the cane for raping a 12-year-old girl, even though he later married her.“Every time we allow a marriage as an excuse not to prosecute a sex offender, we are taking a step backward. And each time, we are causing an injustice to the victim, each time we are condoning the crime,” Wendy said.

Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching said underage victims should not be allowed to withdraw their complaints as they usually did not understand their rights and were not in a position to make decisions to protect their best interests.“The current protection against child marriage is not working. This is not the first time that a rapist is allowed to marry his underage victim and it is surely not going to be the last.“Malaysia has adopted a UN resolution to end child marriage at the Human Rights Council in October 2013.“It’s time for our government to honour our pledge and save our girls,” she added.

( Source : The Star 5th August 2016 )

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