All Women’s Action Society (Awam) notes with concern The Malay Mail’s front page story yesterday on the alarming rate of sex crimes statistic saying that 10 women become victims of rape every day and that on average in every two-and-a-half-hours one woman gets raped, according to latest statistics released by Bukit Aman.
However, we’d like to add that while these police statistics are alarming, they don’t convey the true scale of the crime. Applying the general rule of thumb that only one in 10 cases of rape is reported, the more accurate picture is approximately one rape happenning every 15 minutes in this country.
This means that each year in Malaysia, the number of victims are enough to fill Bukit Jalil stadium to capacity. If we include other sexual crimes such as incest and harassment, experienced not just by women alone but also the transgendered and people of all ages, the numbers would easily double.
According to the 2010 Malaysia Millennium Development Goals report, Malaysia ranks among the highest in the world for reported cases of rape.
Sexual violence has reached epidemic levels in this country. It is a widespread social, development and public health issue that needs to be radically addressed and dealt with. Prior to this report, these statistics were classified as ‘sulit’ and withheld by the police, suggesting a sweep-under-the carpet mentality which betrays a resistance to openly and seriously tackling this issue.
Similarly, our government’s ambitious Government Transformation Programme and National Key Result Area to reduce crime makes no mention of reducing sexual crimes, betraying perhaps a disconnect with the reality of that sexual violence is huge dimension of crime in Malaysia.
The pitifully low rate of prosecution of 162 rapes in 2009 also suggests that our court system is also failing. Meanwhile, the Women’s Ministry is virtually silent on tackling issues of sexual violence.
Rape is a crime that is seemingly committed with impunity, where perpetrators escape the law and get off scot free.
We need a national strategy to deal with sexual crimes, which includes the involvement of all agencies such as service providers, the judiciary, the police, and medical staff. Prevention strategies which promote education, awareness of gender equality and securing women’s rights are long-term enabling environment for reducing this crime.
We need to approach this epidemic with the guts, the will and the resources to truly eradicate sexual crimes.
Ho Yock Lin is acting president of All Women’s Action Society.