Thursday, 30 August 2012

Assistant minister calls for review of statutory rape law

KUCHING: Assistant Youth Development Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah feels the law on statutory rape should be reviewed, saying many such cases involved consensual sex.

He said statutory rape was defined as a sexual act committed against a minor below the age of 16, notwithstanding whether the victim consented to it or not.

“Why I say there should be a review of this law is because in many of the cases, the ‘victims’ are consenting partners.

“Their partners got charged because the parents of the girls lodged police reports of rape against them,” he told The Star yesterday.

A lawyer by training, Abdul Karim also pointed out that children nowadays matured physically and mentally at a much younger age, including in their understanding of sex.

“Whether in the west or east, the ages of kids experimenting or indulging in sexual acts are getting lower. Thus it’s not fair to crucify the boy for statutory rape in cases where the partner is a willing partner,” he said.

However, he added that if the victim was not a consenting or willing partner, he fully agreed that the perpetrator should be charged for rape.

He was commenting on the decision of the George Town Sessions Court on Tuesday to bind over an electrician for three years on a good behaviour bond for statutory rape.

Chuah Guan Jiu, now 22, had been found guilty of raping his 12-year-old girlfriend on two occasions last year. The court took into consideration that Chuah was a young, first-time offender and that the sexual act was consensual.

It was the second such decision after former national youth squad bowler Noor Afizal Azizan was bound over for five years on a good behaviour bond of RM25,000 after he pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

On Aug 8, the Court of Appeal al-lowed Noor Afizal’s appeal against a High Court decision sentencing him to five years’ jail for the offence.

Meanwhile, state PKR Women wants the Attorney-General (A-G) to review the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Noor Afizal.

The wing also called upon the A-G to file an appeal against the George Town Sessions Court decision in the case of Chuah.

Its chief Nurhanim Hanna Mokhsen said the state PKR Women disagreed with the judgments made by both courts.

She said their decisions had created a precedent, which if not reviewed seriously would open the floodgates for more young girls to become victims of rape.

“We have got the law of statutory rape and therefore, consensual is immaterial.

“Statutory is statutory and we don’t believe a 12-year-old girl will give consent to any guy to have sex with her,” she told a press conference here yesterday.

Nurhanim believed that there were many more similar cases pending in court and if the A-G was not doing anything to look into the matter, many would walk away scot-free.

Saturday September 1, 2012

KUCHING: There is no need to review the law on statutory rape because consent is taken into consideration when meting out punishment for the offence.

Ann Teo, who is the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) vice-president, said prominent criminal lawyer Baljit Singh Sidhu had pointed out that the Penal Code was revised in 2006 to state that “consent is a factor to determine the punishment for statutory rape”.

Baljit was reported by an online news portal as saying that under Section 376 of the Penal Code, the minimum sentence if the victim is below 12 years old is five years’ jail and/or whipping, whether or not the victim consented to the act.

However, no minimum sentence is provided if a victim is above 12 years and below 16 and had given consent.

”I don’t see the need to review the law since the Penal Code has already been revised,” Teo told The Star.

She was commenting on the call by Assistant Youth Development Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for the law to be reviewed because many cases of statutory rape involved consent from the victims.

Abdul Karim had said that children matured at a younger age and that it was unfair to “crucify” the boy for statutory rape if the victim was a willing partner.

On this, Teo said the age gap between the offender and victim should be taken into conside- ration.

”If both are teenagers, the future of the boy is also important. But the court has to balance public interest as opposed to the rights of the accused person,” she said, adding that it was also important to consider the factor of exploitation of young girls in such cases.

She also said the courts must mete out appropriate sentences in accordance with the provision of the law.

”For ‘ordinary’ rape, the Penal Code stipulates imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years.

“For ‘aggravated’ rape, such as the victim being 12 years old or younger with or without consent, below 16 without consent, causing hurt when committing the offence or putting her in fear of death, it is a minimal sentence of a five-year imprisonment and not more than 30 years,” she said.

She added that the courts must bear in mind that the provisions of the law were there to provide protection for female children as well as protection from child prostitution and child marriages.

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