PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Teo Nie Ching says the latest report of a man wanting to marry his 13-year-old pregnant girlfriend, justifies why her move to ban child marriages should have been supported in the Dewan Rakyat earlier this month.
She was referring to a report in the New Sarawak Tribune yesterday in which a man was arrested by the police in Kuching on Thursday following investigations into the pregnancy of his 13-year old girlfriend.
“Upon being questioned, it was reported that the man told police he would marry the victim,” Teo said of the case.
Police were reported to have said that the man would still be investigated and charged according to the law for statutory rape.
“According to the law, sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 constitutes ‘statutory rape’. It does not matter if it was sexual intercourse by consent (consensual) or not (rape),” Teo said.
Anyone found guilty of statutory rape faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison and whipping once convicted. If the victim is less than 12 years old, the accused faces a minimum of 10 years’ jail and whipping.
Teo had proposed for an amendment to the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 tabled by the government in the last parliament session, asking for a specific ban on child marriages.
However, after some debate, the bill was passed without any such amendment.
Under 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, can be jailed up to 20 years. They are also liable to being whipped.
She said allowing the man to marry his victim, even if the sex was consensual, gives rise to the possibility that either the girl has to live alone without her husband, or he gets off scot-free, adding that both situations make for unhappy viewing.
“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 becomes a single mother immediately? Or acquit the accused?” Teo said in a statement today.
“And that is exactly why Shabudin Yahaya’s reasoning in supporting child marriage cannot hold water!” she added referring to controversial remarks by Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya in the Dewan Rakyat that child marriages were justified in the case of statutory rape as it would save the victim from a bleak future.
The Kulai MP also provided past examples of statutory rape ending in marriage.
“In 2016, a 28-year-old man was charged with the 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,” she said, adding that it took an intervention by the High Court not to let the case end that way, with the man due in court again next month.
“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!”.
According to Teo, who is DAP assistant national publicity secretary, the restaurant manager was eventually sentenced to 12 years in jail and two 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 her ‘husband’? How will her life get back on track?” Teo said, questioning if the women, family and social development ministry had even monitored how the woman was doing.