KUCHING: Leaders from both sides of the political divide in the state have slammed Tasek Gelugor member of Parliament Datuk Shahbudin Yahaya for his outrageous statements on rape victims and child marriage.
When debating the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017, Shahbudin, a former Syariah Court judge, claimed as some girls reached puberty as young as the age of nine, it is not impossible for them to get married as they were ‘physically and spiritually’ ready, adding there was ‘nothing wrong’ with a rape victim marrying the rapist, as it could serve as a ‘remedy’ to the increasing number of social problems.
Assistant Minister for Housing Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he was left totally aghast by Shahbudin’s statement.
“If this is how he looks at things, such as allowing a nine-year-old kid, who has probably just reached puberty, to be married, then this MP needs to be given counselling,” he said as reported by The Borneo Post today.
However, the Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports said there is a need for a review on the age considered statutory rape, as children today mature earlier and many engage in consensual sex with their partners even before reaching the age of 16.
“However, the consenting male is putting himself in danger of being charged with statutory rape even if the underage female partner consented to the act. This has led to some parents allowing their underage children to be married so as to avoid shame and probably prosecution,” he said.
“I can understand if the present 16 years old is brought down to 15 years old as a 15-year-old girl nowadays is quite mature physically and mentally as compared to years ago.”
Meanwhile Minister of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said such statements should not come from a member of parliament.
“That kind of mindset will only aggravate and will not help us at all to reduce statutory rape and child marriages in the country,” she said.
Fatimah said the issue here is statutory rape, adding that having sex with a minor whether consensual or not is statutory rape under the law.
“It is an offence. Marrying the victim should not nullify the offence,” she stressed.
She said child marriage often forces girls out of schools and strips them of the chance to break out of poverty.
“With little access to education and economic opportunities, they and their families are more likely to live in poverty. It increases their risk of passing poverty on to the next generation in an inter-generational cycle of deprivation,” she explained.
Fatimah said in this century, the focus should be on giving equal opportunities to women to develop their potential through education and skills as well as empowering them to be able to contribute to their own wellbeing, their families and community.
Meanwhile, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Women’s national vice-president Voon Shiak Ni said she was disgusted with Shahbudin’s arguments.
“This is senseless. This Umno MP is not fit to be the people’s representative and he is an embarrassment to the Malaysian Parliament. It is a statement that is outrageous and out of mind. It is totally disgusting and unforgivable for it to come from an MP’s mouth,” she said.
Voon said rape is one of the most heinous crimes and therefore a rapist should be punished.
“Marrying off the victims to the rapists is inhumane and if that happens, we are basically allowing the rapists to continue their sexual abuse on the victims in years to come. Are we helping victims or continuing to ruin them and their lives?” she questioned.
“Shahbudin should be reminded that girls are not born to be used as a sex tool. We demand the MP to withdraw his statement and apologise to all the girls and women in Malaysia.”
Last year the Syariah Judiciary Department revealed that there were 10,240 child marriage applications made between 2005 and 2015, with the highest number of applications coming from Sarawak (2,064), Kelantan (1,929) and Terengganu (924). -@ybkarimsays