It may be safe to say that Malaysia has a rape problem, especially when we talk about the rape of minors. According to figures given in parliament, of 37,263 rape cases reported between 2000 and 2015, more than half of the victims were aged between 13 and 15. As if that’s not terrifying enough, the statistics work out to one female being raped every 35 minutes.
And we’re talking only of reported cases. It has been estimated that between 80% and 90% of rapes go unreported.
Considering these facts, Tasik Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya cannot complain that he has been unfairly attacked for saying that there’s nothing wrong with letting rapists marry their victims. The presumption is that the rapists would thus escape punishment.
Apparently not content with shoving a foot into his mouth, he went on to dig an even deeper grave by saying that some children of 12 to 15 had bodies like 18-year-old women. He took it further by adding that some 9-year olds were “physically and spiritually ready” for marriage and all it entails.
Now that we’ve all choked back our bile, rest assured that the churning of your stomach only proves that you are human.
Shahbudin posits that it would be wrong to assume that a rapist would remain a terrible person. According to him, a rapist deserves a second chance at life, his marriage to the victim provides her with a protector, and marrying off victims to their rapists is a way of remedying social problems.
Let us go back to the act of rape itself. Studies have shown that the underlying motive of rape is less related to the satisfication of sexual lust than to the expression of dominance and power. It is the use of sex as a weapon for the express purpose of inflicting pain, humiliation, and violence upon another person. As long as these abnormally violent and aggressive tendencies are unaddressed, there is always the danger that the crime will be repeated.
Given that there is no assurance that a rapist will magically change his ways once married, here are some sobering facts found in a study in the United States. Lisak and Miller in 2002 found that 63.3% of rape offenders were people who had previously committed the crime. These reoffenders reported averaging 5.8 rapes per person, whether the act was perpetrated against the same victims or a number of victims.
While not all rapists will follow the mould and some may genuinely repent and change their ways, the question here is not how society can accommodate the rapists among us, but how we can deal with them in a way that is humane but proportionate to the crime.
The question is also not about the apparent sexual readiness of the victim. It’s also not about whether the victim dresses immodestly or acts beyond her age. Such are excuses for the perpetrator and they are baseless because a rational human being must be responsible for his own actions.
It’s high time we stopped making excuses for rapists, and treat the crime the way it should be treated. We cannot give rapists any excuse to escape punishment.
Scott Ng is an FMT columnist.
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