A Malaysian man faced 30 years in prison and whipping after being charged with raping a 14-year-old, as per the country’s penalty for committing rape, but found a way to weasel out of legal punishment — and instead continue victimizing the survivor.
However, Ahmad Syukri Yusuf, 22, who allegedly raped the teen twice, avoided the punishment altogether after marrying the now-15-year-old girl.
Judge Afidah Abdul Rahman at a court in Kuching, in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sarawak, ruled there was no need to further prosecute the man after a marriage certificate of his marriage with the complainant was produced.
But this isn’t the first rape case in the Southeast Asian country where the offender managed to walk away scot-free.
Although, according to Malaysia’s civil laws, the minimum age for marriage for both genders is 18, girls can get married at 16 and younger with the consent of a Sharia court. This loophole in the legal system is purportedly used by rapists to escape the penalty for their crime. (By the way, Malaysian girls are not allowed to drive under the age of 16.)
In a similar 2013 case, a 40-year-old man accused of rape married his 13-year-old victim, defending his actions saying: “There are many cases of men marrying underage girls. I do not see why my case should be any different."
Human rights and religious groups, both local as well as international, have long called upon the Malaysian government to revoke the controversial laws that essentially legalize child marriages but to no avail.
“Statistics on the rate of child marriage in Malaysia are hard to pin down, but in 2010, the women, family and community development deputy minister reported that 16,000 girls aged below 15 in the country were married,” Human Rights Watch reported in April while also highlighting “situations in which rape victims have been forced to marry the rapist or another man to hush up the crime.”
In January, Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian Muslim civil society group, slammed an MP for distorting Islamic laws as a “solution” to statutory rape.
"It is a mockery to Islam to say that the solution to statutory rape lies within the religion, which is to marry off children at a young age. Islam does not allow for underage marriages, especially if it is to the perpetrator himself, that is the underage girl’s rapist,” the NGO said in a statement.
“Marriage in Islam is about love, compassion, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between husband and wife — it is a union of mawaddah wa rahmah (love and affection).”
Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and Child Rights Convention, which is all the more reason to get rid of outdated and damaging laws that not only facilitate child abuse and keep rapists out of jail. But the country seems more interested in protecting rapists than children.