The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) is concerned that “consensual sex” between a young adult and a child can result in a binding over sentence for the perpetrator.
While the courts should indeed have discretionary powers in sentencing for statutory rape cases, appeals to the “bright future” of those who commit statutory rape simply do not suffice. Mitigating factors on the side of the perpetrator must be balanced with the impact of the sexual exploitation of young victims which may not have been acknowledged or taken into account during the sentencing.
That the act was ‘consensual’ often merely points to the fact that no physical violence took place. It is imperative that we ask ourselves whether a child aged 12 or 13 is able to effectively ‘consent’ to a sexual relationship. We also need to be aware of the consequences to a child’s emotional and physical well-being when she enters into a sexual relationship, consensual or otherwise. Furthermore the manipulation and manner of exploitation of the young girl must also be considered.
JAG believes it is important that the dispensation of justice in every case of statutory rape reflects various considerations including the impact on the victim. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Malaysia is a state party, requires that in all cases where children are concerned, our courts give primary consideration to their best interests.
The social reality today is that teenagers can be in sexual relationships where one or both are below the age of 16 years. And there are adults or older teenagers who prey on naïve and vulnerable underage girls. Although the sex may be allegedly ‘consensual’, the element of exploitation is very real.
These two cases once again highlight the urgent need for us as a society to better relate and understand the needs and perspectives of young people as well as the complexities of teenage sexuality. There is a gap between most adults and teenagers on the subject of sexuality. Any policy response must be based on the facts and evidence from existing research on reproductive health and rights in Malaysia.
Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises:
Sisters In Islam (SIS)
All Women's Action Society (Awam)
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Perak Women for Women Society (PWW)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)