Do more to keep underage girls falling victim to rape, urges MP

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto says the community should act as fierce vigilantes in protecting children and safeguarding their rights to ensure a bright future for them. (File pic)

PETALING JAYA: Efforts need to be redoubled to ensure underage girls don’t fall victim to rape, Batu Kawan MP and Wanita DAP international secretary Kasthuri Patto said today.

She said in Malaysia, the age of consent is 16, which means sex with an underage girl is considered as statutory rape.

“But many are unaware of that, which means there is a lack of knowledge of the law, about the Penal Code and the Child Act,” she said in a statement today.

Kasthuri said the rising number of rape cases, especially those committed by boyfriends, acquaintances and family members, should jolt all parents, community leaders, heads of religious bodies and places of worship to treat this matter with the utmost importance in view of the gravity of the crime.

Kasthuri Patto.

She said police figures on rapes indicate the huge number of broken children, “violated by sex predators hiding behind the cloak of familiarity, confidence and trust”.

She praised Penang police chief  T Narenasagaran for calling a spade a spade and expressing his concern over the number of underage children who had been raped, often by those close to them.

Penang police said 78% of the 462 rape cases reported over the past five years involved children below the age of 17.

Kasthuri said a 2014 report by the Women’s Aid Organisation stated that only 10% of rape cases are reported, which means 90% of rape cases go unreported.

She said this means there could have been 4,620 rape cases across the board over the past five years in Penang alone, or on average two or three cases a day.

“This is indeed a frightening figure to go by, especially if 78% of rape victims are children aged below the age of 17.

“This could mean that we have among us 3,603 children who have been sexually violated, mostly by the people they know and who are presumably known to their parents or caretakers as well.

“The Penang police chief said a large number of underage rape victims know their rapists. A massive 90.7% of rape victims knew their rapists — from boyfriends to family members and acquaintances

“Only 9.3%, or 43 perpetrators, were unknown to the victims.”

Kasthuri said people should stop “victim-blaming”.

“Stop ridiculing victims. Stop shunning child victims. Stop pushing away families that have victims.

“We should be embarrassed for not doing enough to protect our children instead of being ashamed to talk about this dangerous, wicked rape culture among us.

“Be fierce vigilantes in protecting our children and safeguarding their rights for their future,” said Kasthuri, who was also a member of the parliamentary special select committee on gender equality and family development.