PETALING JAYA: The Joint Action Group (JAG) for Gender Equality has condemned religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad for trying to silence a teenage actress who alleged that she was molested by her father when younger.
Idris reportedly said the 15-year-old should not have gone public with her experience in a recent podcast interview, stating that she should have reported the incident to the police to avoid shaming her family or damaging her father’s reputation.
Calling Idris’ response “unacceptable”, JAG said it was an “upsetting reflection of the normalisation” of the violence women and girls experience at home.
“Such statements shame survivors of sexual and gender-based violence into silence, leaving many to feel that they are alone in facing the issue,” it said in a statement.
“These remarks from someone in a position of power and trust are extremely discouraging for all survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. It could also contribute to the under-reporting of such cases as victims fear speaking out over possible retaliation and being wrongly judged.
“Advising the survivor and family members to not speak out about abuse to protect abusers is a blatant contradiction of the core values of Malaysian laws and government SOPs meant to eradicate sexual violence against children perpetrated by adults, including family members.”
The JAG member organisations include the Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), Family Frontiers, Sisters in Islam (SiS), Tenaganita, and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
The group noted that the Prime Minister’s Department, which Idris came under, was a key driver in ensuring that provisions in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 were implemented, including by issuing a special guideline for handling cases involving sexual offences against children.
“As an MP and minister, it would be remiss (of Idris) not to clarify the department’s stance on children’s rights to be safe from sexual harm,” it said.
Pointing out that police data had revealed that most child sexual abuse cases involved perpetrators known to the victim, most often their biological or stepfathers, it added that a “staggering” 42% increase in child sexual abuse cases was recorded between 2020 and 2021.
“The power dynamics of being harmed by a trusted individual, especially a family member, makes speaking out daunting. Hence, the routine silencing and shaming of victims only serves to further exacerbate the issue,” it said.
The young actress lodged a police report on Monday alleging that her father sexually harassed her.
Harian Metro reported that the 43-year-old father was detained in Kedah the next day.
He has been remanded until Sept 12 to facilitate investigations.