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Friday, April 14, 2017

Kuching rape case shows why child marriage must be rejected

MP SPEAKS | A man was arrested by the police in Kuching following investigations into the pregnancy of his 13-year-old girlfriend. Upon being questioned, it was reported that the man told the police he would marry the victim.
This isn’t the first of such cases in Malaysia.
In 2016, a 28-year-old man was charged with statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl. He married the teenager, and following that, he was discharged not amounting to acquittal by the Sessions Court. After intervention by the High Court, the case is now fixed for trial in May this year.
Another such case happened in 2013. A 40-year-old restaurant manager had sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl. He, too, married the girl as his second wife after being charged, despite the fact that he already had four children between the ages of 4 and 18.
The restaurant manager was eventually sentenced to 12 years of jail and 2 strokes of the cane. This development brings about the dilemma of a ‘missing husband’ in the life of the victim, and raises many questions. Will the family of her ‘husband’ treat her well? Or perhaps, she has divorced from from her ‘husband’? How will her life get back on track? Did the Women, Family and Social Development Mnistry ever do a follow up?
No matter if it was sexual intercourse by consent (consensual) or not (rape), we must not allow child marriages. This is because sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 constitutes ‘statutory rape’; whereby the perpetrator faces the possibility of up to 20 years of prison and whipping once convicted. In cases where the victim is less than 12-years-old, the fate of a minimum of 10 years of jail and whipping awaits the perpetrator.
If they were allowed to get married, then one of two situations would arise:
One, the man goes to jail while the girl lives without her husband. Two, the man gets off scot-free. Both situations make for unhappy viewing.
In the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017, individuals found guilty of committing physical sexual acts on children (both boys and girls), including touching a child’s body, could be jailed up to 20 years, and are also liable to being whipped.

What worries me the most is offenders will use marriage to avoid imprisonment.
Although marriage is not a valid defence in the eyes of the law, but what would you do if you were the judge where the victim has been married to her rapist? Put the accused in jail, so the victim become a single mother immediately? Or acquit the accused?
And that is exactly why Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya’s reasoning in supporting child marriage cannot hold water.

TEO NIE CHING is Kulai MP and DAP assistant national publicity secretary.- Mkini

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