Shabudin Yahaya and our rape culture

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“... In practice the standard for what constitutes rape is set not at the level of women's experience of violation but just above the level of coercion acceptable to men.”

- Judith Lewis Herman, psychiatrist and incest researcher

Let us get this out of the way. What Tasek Gelugor MP Shabudin Yahaya said amounts to endorsing paedophilia. Furthermore, he is a rape apologist as well.

When this MP says “girls who reached puberty as young as nine-years-old were physically and spiritually ready for marriage”, what he is really saying is that in his view, young girls as young as nine are ready for sex.

When this MP claims that older male perpetrators “fall in love” with their underage victims and should be allowed to marry them, what he is really saying is that older men who groom their victims and then rape them should be allowed the legal and societal endorsement of “marriage” to cover up their crimes.

When he says that “maybe the husband had raped her (his wife, prior to marriage), we (can't) say that the husband will be a useless and evil person forever”, he is really saying that men who rape women should be forgiven for their crimes when they “atone” for them by marrying their victims.

He also squarely places the blame on the “wild lifestyle” of women and girls which absolves men from their crimes and reinforces the victim-blaming and shaming that constitutes the foundations of a rape culture that is based on a paternalistic agenda of men like Shabudin Yahaya.

If you ever need an example of a Muslim who gives Islam a bad name, it is someone like this Umno parliamentarian. I consider what he says of women and children as akin to an act that gives the religion and its adherents the reputation of unsavouriness and bolsters the idea that Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas as propagated by atheists like Sam Harris.

Amanah MP Siti Mariah Mahmud said, “I don't blame him totally because the law allows it. I'm not saying he is right, but that is the mindset of Malaysians today, of Muslims today."

First of all, this is not the mindset of “Malaysians” today. I can confidently say that the majority of Malaysians - Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or however they self-identify themselves - believe that child marriage and rape are anathema to any kind of moral thinking. It is only certain Muslim men who control the discourse and control the levers of government and set policy, who think this way.

They think this way because for years they have been allowed to say and do the most morally reprehensible things and do this in the name of religion, while those of us who attempted to resist and point out such immoral behaviour were told not to interfere with Islam and threatened with sanctions from the state.

In an article about child abuse, I highlighted what an activist from Sisters in Islam said - “Child marriage is actually exacerbating the abuse of the children by making it legal." Shareena (Sheriff) also highlighted the fact that politicians and religious personalities make statements advocating child marriages, which in turn makes it conducive for those ‘who want to go down that road will feel that it's perfectly all right to do so.’”

What does it say when religious men tell pre-teen girls to “cover up”, claim that they are ready for marriage (sex) at the age of nine and consider the marriage of a rape victim as “the power of God”? Whose is being seditious here - the person who questions such abhorrent behaviour in the name of religion or the person who uses religion to justify his...

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