By Nur binti Zayed – 27.7.19
Malaysia, despite being quite modern in many other fields, still regards marital rape as legal. I find it increasingly difficult to justify raising my daughters in a place which does not put women’s safety on its list of priorities.
When the new Pakatan Harapan coalition came into power, it gave me hope that archaic laws would be re-written. Despite Prime Minister Mahathir’s questionable attitude towards human rights in the past, I prayed that he would usher in an era of new laws and new attitudes that would ensure Malaysian women have the legal protection they deserve.
But those hopes were crushed when Deputy Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin stood up in October last year and stated that the government has no plans to make non-violent marital rape a crime. Their reasoning was disgustingly weak- it revolved around the difficult of proving these cases in court.
They decided against criminalizing marital rape because it’ll just be a headache when it comes to the ins and the outs of the courtroom. To me, this symbolises the government turning a blind eye to the thousands of women who have absolutely no legal form of protection against rape that takes place in their very own home.
Just because it may be hard to prove, it doesn’t mean it is not happening. A 2014 national study conducted by the Universiti Saints Malaysia discovered that 9% of Malaysian women have experienced domestic violence out of which 11% reported the form of abuse as “forced sex”. Tan Heang-Lee, an officer with Women’s Aid Organisation (WOA) stated that “some 100,000 women in Malaysia have been raped by their intimate partner during their lifetime.”
She continued stating, “Marital rape often occurs in the context of domestic violence. By not recognising marital rape, we are empowering abusers and sending the message that it’s okay for husbands to rape their wives.”
It gets worse. Many rapists and podophiles have caught on to this loophole and use it as tool with which to avoid punishment. Local organisations have cases documented in which men, many who have raped girls as young as 12, have tried to evade criminal charges by marrying their victim. This rape charge exception, coupled with the fact thatunder certain circumstances, child marriage is permitted in Malaysia, makes for a dangerous combination. It gives the rapista chance to sweep their crime under the rug.
Child marriage is an additional concern in Malaysia. The minimum age of marriage may be set at 18, but it is riddled with ambiguities. In Islamic law, there is a 16-year minim age, but if the Syariah court approves even younger girls are permitted to get married.
How can I raise my young daughters without being scared for them to go through something like this.