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A sorry society and the blindness of leaders

 | June 5, 2014

Official reactions to the recent gang rape in Kelantan show why we need a change of mindsets.

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481013297(1)Does anything justify a rape? No! But this is not what Malaysian police think, as was apparent when they told reporters that the 38 men who gang raped two teenage girls did so because they were intoxicated.

The girls, aged 15 and 17, were raped on May 20 for hours by a group of men in an abandoned hut in Kelantan.

According to police statistics, almost 3,000 rape cases were reported in 2012, and many of the victims were aged 16 years and below.

Clearly, the police force needs to be gender sensitised to prevent them from being sidetracking from the real issue.

Being drunk or drugged cannot turn someone into a rapist. Intoxicants and narcotics may worsen behaviours and cloud judgements, but won’t suddenly turn someone into a rapist.

Contrary to the myth that rape is about lust, the crime is in fact an act of physical violence and domination that is not motivated by sexual gratification.

Malaysian police have often enough displayed bias against the victim in rape issues. There is therefore an urgent need to address this mindset.

At the same time, the ruling government must explain why it is turning a blind eye to lurking threats to the dignity of women.

Amidst the cries of Penan women and girls who continously face sexual harassment and rape at the hands of loggers and the anger of nearly everyone else over the latest gang rape of a schoolgirl, the spooky silence of both the federal government and wakil rakyat from both sides of the fence is deafening.

Apparently, neither the Prime Minister nor his special adviser on women’s welfare has found the Kelantan gang rape an issue worth losing sleep over.

Even early childhood programme Permata founder Rosmah Mansor, who professes to have a soft spot for children, seems to be oblivious.

They have left it to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to sound the alarm over increases in such cases in recent years.

Reacting to the latest case, Unicef Malaysia said it added to an “overall increase in cases of child abuse over the past few years”.

Quoting statistics from the Social Welfare Department, it said such cases had increased from 2,789 in 2009 to 3, 428 in 2011, noting that those figures did not include cases that had not been reported because of the stigma attached to being a rape survivor.

To Unicef, the gruesome and disturbing nature of the case highlighted a need to identify and address the underlying causes of violence against girls.

“Specifically, there is a need to address gender stereotypes, including attitudes and beliefs that condone violence and perpetuate harmful constructions of masculinity,” it added.

While the nation remains worried over escalating crimes like rape, PAS has turned opportunistic and decided to use the issue to push for hudud.

PAS vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man claims the country’s secular justice system has failed to act as a deterrent and that the gang rape was proof enough of the need for hudud.

PAS has yet to explain whether under its version of hudud rape will be defined as a crime of fornication, which means the complainant must provide four credible eyewitnesses.

We fear that it will. If being stripped of her dignity is not traumatic enough for a woman, she then has to face the humiliation of four men watching her being raped. If this is not a travesty of justice, then what is?

That kind of hudud will never be the touted saviour of our sorry society. It is the political will and commitment towards safeguarding women’s dignity that are desperately needed.


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