Sunday, November 27

Is marrying the rapist to the victim the Malaysian way?


THE recent judicial decision in East Malaysia seems to have escaped the attention of some media outlets. Another rapist married his child victim and was allowed to get away with the sexual abuse in court. The Borneo Post carried the distressing account of a 28-year-old man who clearly took advantage of a 14-year-old child and was freed by the court.

The report states the judge’s decision was, “Since the complainant and the victim of the subject matter of this case wish to withdraw the complaint against the accused on the ground that she is now married to him, there is no necessity to proceed further with this case. Therefore, the accused is discharged not amounting to acquittal.”

It’s amazing that despite the outcry from many on such instances previously, our legal system continues to favour the rapist and not the victim. This decision by our legal system, in ruling in support of a rapist and sex abuser needs to be reviewed. Our systems must not continue to fail children.

Under the Penal Code this girl is under 16 years of age and it is obviously statutory rape; which means there is no defence. The judge would be required by law to rule in the favour of the victim and punish this rapist. If withdrawal of a police report makes this difficult, the Child Act could be used. Under the Child Act, this person is under 18 and sexually abused. The Child Act is a mandatory reporting system, which means that withdrawing the police report is meaningless. The Welfare Department, Health Department and police are mandated by law to take action. And the judge can rule in favour of the victim against the perpetrator.

I wonder also who it is that allowed this marriage to take place and solemnised it? Those authorities also need to be investigated by the Welfare Department for aiding and abetting sexual abuse.

I hope the Welfare Department will act immediately to rescue this child under the Child Act. She requires urgent and sustained emotional and psychological support and counselling. Her parents are also obviously not supporting her rights and needs.

Often the legal profession suggests that the rest of us are poor at understanding the law. But we know justice and injustice when we see it. We have witnessed a number of rulings that concern us. From adults who put fingers in the vagina of children being let off, to the continual abuse of children by marrying them to adults. The child in this situation will now have to live with her rapist.

The legal system must regain some sense of decorum and earn back the respect of the public.

We look to the legal system to protect children not harm them.

Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS is senior consultant paediatrician and Paediatric Department head at Hospital RPB Ipoh, Perak. He is also Clinical Research Centre Perak head and National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) president.