PETALING JAYA: A women’s rights activist has criticised a RM2,000 fine handed down on a man who assaulted a woman driver who had honked at him, and said it sends a harmful message to Malaysians.
All Women’s Action Society programme and operations manager Nisha Sabanayagam called the event “horrifying” and said the offender’s punishment should have been accompanied by imprisonment and community service, as well as a requirement to attend anger management counselling.
She was commenting on the case of a man who was convicted for voluntarily causing hurt by repeatedly punching a woman in the face after confronting her about the honking once she had parked her car.
“By not providing punishment that is equivalent to the crime, the judge is sending a message that the legal system sees this form of gender-based violence as a small-time crime. This perpetuates the devaluation of women in society and their subordination to men,” she told FMT.
“If the survivor had been a man, the chances of him being beaten up in such a manner would have been smaller. The law is meant to be a deterrent, not a mere channel of formality to show that we have some kind of a legal structure in place.”
Sheena Gurbakhash, president of the Association of Women Lawyers, said there was still room for the victim to take civil action against the perpetrator.
“Any victim of road rage can take action for the tort of assault in the civil courts. But this puts the burden of proof on the victim and can be both expensive and time consuming.
“Our courts base the amount of damages given on actual physical harm, so you can be really traumatised but not physically injured and may not get very much in terms of compensation as well as having to be further traumatised by being cross-examined and having to face her attacker,” she said.
Roger Chan, a human rights lawyer, said that while the RM2,000 fine was the maximum under the Penal Code for this particular offence, the prosecution had options available to increase the severity of the punishment.
“If the prosecution thinks that a punishment is inadequate, it can always appeal to the High Court for enhancement of sentence, including a custodial one.”