Malaysia is a paradox and a land of contrasts. On one hand, many of us raise our children in a conservative way and forbid them from doing all sorts of things.
One Muslim teen said, “I wanted to learn ballet, but was told by my older relatives that wearing tights and doing dance moves that exposed my crotch, was not permissible.”
On the other hand, many parents allow their children to go out, and in some cases, not return until the early hours of the morning. They don’t censor their children’s Internet activities and do not question where their children go, or with whom.
Many parents forget that children can be easily exploited and abused, and that their daughters may be naive and vulnerable.
Last week, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim informed parliament that a 12-year-old rape victim, who had been married off to her rapist, was doing fine. Whilst Rohani became a target of derision on social media, most of us missed something more abhorrent than her remarks.
There are many unpleasant aspects of the case. A 40-year-old restaurant manager, Riduan Masmud, who had a wife and four children, whose ages ranged from 2 to 17, had taken advantage of the 12-year-old.
The father of four raped the young girl in a car, parked at the picturesque Kionsom Waterfalls, near Kota Kinabalu. To avoid prosecution, the rapist then married his victim under shariah law.
A father should protect his daughter from being seduced by another man, but this girl’s father accepted RM10,000 from the rapist to withdraw the charges.
We were not made aware of the shocking details until the girl’s aunt lodged a police report.
The religious authorities, and supposedly learned people in government, did not appear to try and stop this abhorrent act. Marriage, even in Islam, is about a couple’s mutual compassion, love and respect for each other as well as their sense of responsibility.
Why did the parents allow this man to be alone with their daughter? Was he a family friend, or a member of the extended family? How did the rapist gain the trust of his victim’s parents? He betrayed all of them, as well as shaming his own wife and children.
Another abhorrent aspect of this sordid affair, which the general public did not pick up on, was the revelation by the police that between 2010 and May 2017, 13,272 children have been raped. This was relayed by Rohani to the Dewan Rakyat on July 27.
This means that over a seven-year period, around 1,896 children were raped every year. On average, 158 children were raped each month, or between five and six children every day. This is a shocking statistic.
These figures may be artificially low because these are only the rapes that were reported.
An equal number of rapes of children were probably kept under wraps because the children and their families had either been threatened or feared the repercussions.
The children may have been warned not to report the rapes, or the families offered large sums of money to buy the victims’ silence.
Sadly, in many Asian societies, we keep quiet because we do not want to be ostracised by the community, or feel ashamed.
When we do this, we let our children down, a second time.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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