GEORGE TOWN: Although rape cases in Penang indicate a reduction over the past six years, police are concerned that 78% of the 462 cases reported since 2014 involve victims aged 17 and below.
According to Penang police chief T Narenasagaran, there were 68 rape cases in the first 10 months of this year.
This compares to 100 cases in 2014, 76 in 2015, 65 in 2016, 79 in 2017 and 74 last year.
“Even if just one rape case is recorded, we’ll view it seriously as it is a concern to society. We need to address and prevent this situation early so that it does not worsen in future,” he said.
Narenasagaran said cases concerning underage victims were particularly of concern, with those aged 13 to 15 comprising the largest group of 264 cases (57%).
He said 67 of the cases involved those aged 16 to 17 while 28 victims were aged 12 and below.
During the six-year period from 2014 to 2019, the victims’ boyfriends were the suspected rapists in 42% (193) of the cases.
“Many of these couples engaged in sexual intercourse voluntarily. But since the victims were underage, these cases have to be investigated as rapes,” said the police chief.
He said in another 30% (139) of the cases, the victims were acquainted with the suspects, while in 54 cases family members were involved in the rapes.
In 33 cases, the suspects were new acquaintances of the victims. Only in 43 cases, were the victims unknown to the suspects.
“All women, irrespective of their ages, need to be more careful to avoid becoming victims of rape,” Narenasagaran said.
He placed importance on parents and teachers educating children on what is improper touching and what could lead to rape.
Police, through their school liaison officers (PPS), are conducting briefings in schools with the aim of raising awareness among students on criminal laws pertaining to the rape of underage victims, also known as statutory rape.
Narenasagaran believed these school briefings could reduce the incidence of rape involving underage victims.
“Many of these students do not know of the punishment which will be meted out to an offender even though sexual intercourse is with the consent of the underage victim.
“Under the law, this is a crime and young people should be better aware of it.
“I also advise female students to look after themselves and not to engage in sexual relationships.
“Now is the time for them to focus on their studies to become successful individuals in the future.”
A number of NGOs in the state are also actively involved in disseminating information and conducting awareness-raising sessions for women, particularly schoolgirls, on rape, added Narenasagaran.