Malaysian MP: Rape Victims Should Marry Rapists For A ‘Better Life’

“The person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems.”

A Malaysian member of parliament believes rape victims can lead a happy life — if they marry their rapists.

"Perhaps through marriage they can lead a healthier, better life. And the person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems,” said Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, a member of Barisan Nasional coalition, in response to a debate on Malaysia's Sexual Offenses Against Children bill, which passed Malaysia's House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The new bill aims to protect children under the age of 18 from sexual abuse and allows minors to testify to rape or other mistreatment. It is one of the few proposals to reform Malaysia’s unjust laws that enable sex crimes against children to go mostly unpunished.

He also said underage marriage should be considered because at the age of “9 or 12” when girls reach puberty, their bodies are “already akin to them being 18 years old” and it makes them “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.

Malaysia’s civil law allow marriage at 18, although people as young as 16 can get married with the approval of the state’s chief minister, stated Reuters.

In response, Yahaya received backlash from multiple quarters, including from Penang’s Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

“We are ashamed to have an MP like this from Penang. Even though he’s not in the state government, he is a black stain for Penang,” he said.

Sharmila Sekaran, the CEO of a child advocacy group, Voice of the Children, which has been working with the government to draft the new law, was also in attendance when Yahaya made the offensive comments.

“I was outraged that he would make such a statement. Basically to justify and legalize a wrong, a statutory rape. He’s a leader of society, as a member of parliament, and it’s worrying that he has this line of thinking,” Sekaran added. “It does send a message across the country that it is something that we are supposed to be OK with. That’s a very worrying trend: ‘Go and rape someone and if you get caught offer to marry them.’”

Sisters in Islam, a women rights group, said, “Suggesting that marriage and statutory rape can be conflated is a mockery to Islam. Marriage in Islam is about love, compassion, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between husband and wife... How can there be love and compassion if there is an unfair balance of power between the spouses and a threat of sexual abuse in the marriage right from the start?”



After the backlash, Yahaya said his words have been misrepresented and he does not believe marriage is a “back door exit to legalize rape.”

In its final version, the Sexual Offenses Against Children does not tackle the issue of child marriage at all but does place a ban on “grooming”: a term that describes the behavior of an adult who approaches the child, sometimes online, and can result in sex crimes against the child.

The maximum penalty of the offender is jail up to 30 years and six lashes of whip for creating, owning or distributing child pornography.

Out of the 12,987 reported sexual abuse crimes against children between January 2012 and July 2016, charges were filed in just 2,189 cases — these only lead to 140 convictions, according to the Malaysian police.

Laws are more stringent now, said opposition MP Teo Nie Ching, who proposed the ban on child marriages. However, many offenders still use the absence of a ban on child marriage to get away with marital rape, as it is not considered a crime in Malaysia.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters

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