By Mikha Chan
Tasik Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya has shown how out of touch he is with reality with his statements about the desirability of marriage between rapists and their victims.
Among other things, he said such marriages would serve as a remedy for social problems and an opportunity for rapists to repent.
As much as every criminal deserves a chance to repent, child marriage is not a solution, simply because there’s enough evidence to show that it provides a legal avenue for sex offenders to continue abusing their victims.
Studies by the United Nations and other organisations have shown how girls married young are “more vulnerable to intimate partner violence and sexual abuse than those who marry later”. This is especially true when the age gap between the spouses is large.
The World Health Organisation has pointed out that young girls are powerless to refuse sex and lack the resources or legal and social support to leave an abusive marriage.
Besides, there are health concerns that come with child marriage and youth pregnancy.
Unfortunately, it appears that statistical evidence has proven ineffective in converting staunch supporters of child marriage. So far, it seems pointless to argue with them.
Shabudin’s statements are built on personal anecdotes and blinkered observations. They ignore the decades’ worth of evidence showing that such a marriage is a disservice to the victim.
Perhaps these last holders-out for “remedial marriage” will change their position only when they experience on a personal level what happens when you allow sex offenders to “repent” for their crimes by legally tying them to their victims. To use an oft-repeated argument: what if it’s your daughter?
Shabudin’s arguments are dangerous in their maybes and what-ifs. What if the offender repents? What if the offender proves to be a good man and husband? The marriage bed is no place for repentance. We have the prison system and mental health institutions for that. As for proving to be a model husband, one should think that the ship sailed with the crime.
His advocacy of child marriage as the “perfect remedy” to social problems sidesteps the government’s responsibility to uplift the nation’s youth and provide them with the opportunity to make better life choices. It insults the youth initiatives done by his comrades in Umno Youth and publicly supported by the Prime Minister.
We must not ignore the evidence. We cannot flirt with danger and hide behind fanciful ideas of rehabilitation. We must think of the child as well as the offender. Child marriage must go.
Mikha Chan is an FMT columnist.
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