NGOs seek update on move to criminalise marital rape

PETALING JAYA: Two women’s rights groups have renewed a call for the criminalisation of marital rape, urging Putrajaya to remove Penal Code provisions that stand in the way.

Speaking to FMT, Sisters in Islam communications manager Majidah Hashim and Women’s Aid Organisation executive director Sumitra Visvanathan expressed concern over the lack of updates from the government on the issue.

Majidah said any delay in amending the law meant that women would continue to be exposed to abuse.

There have been no developments since last year, when Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said the government would be consulting concerned groups on the issue.

Also last year, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin said criminalising marital rape was tough because the offence would be difficult to prove in court.

Majidah criticised Hanipa’s statement, saying it showed irresponsibility on the part of the government.

“Being difficult to prove does not negate its existence or the real and traumatising harm it poses,” she said.

Sumitra hailed the government’s willingness to hold consultations, but called for urgency.

“We believe that the government needs to demonstrate its commitment to protecting women from violence comprehensively,” she said. “It must prioritise our rights above repressive traditional norms that continue to suppress women.”

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto of DAP told FMT several civic groups had given a briefing on marital rape to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights and Gender Equality.

She said the committee planned to meet more of such groups for their input and work out a solution to satisfy all quarters.

She too noted that there had been no recent updates from the government, but said she hoped marital rape would eventually be criminalised.

“There are so many important issues that all need a lot of attention, and only because the previous regime neglected to address them properly,” she added.

She said it was important to educate groups opposing the idea of criminalising marital rape.

“I, for one, will work with other MPs to see an end to marital rape,” she said. “We will study the legislations of other countries and focus on the best practices of those countries that have criminalised it.”