Malaysiakini News

Stop decriminalising and trivialising rape

Yeong Pey Jung  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | “At least she (a woman who was raped) has a husband... this is a remedy to social problems.” To say that I am appalled and disgusted by Shabudin Yahaya’s stance would be a great understatement.

Since his controversial comments had been reported, Shabudin had come out with the politician’s usual backpedalling spiel that he was misquoted by the media. But if one is to go through the transcript of his Parliamentary reply, it is evident that he had not been taken out of context at all.

It is indeed terrifying when a Member of Parliament, a lawmaker, a person who is elected to institute and regulate laws, for the purposes of creating fair and equal justice for all of those in the country, is making excuses and creating justification for the crime of rape. It is degrading to suggest to a rape survivor - a word that I prefer to use as compared to the word ‘victim’ - that her life could be made better if she married after the rape, or consented to marrying her attacker.

Shabudin’s words strongly suggested that he did not seem to possess even the tiniest sliver of compassion or sympathy for a rape survivor. By condemning the women’s future as being “bleak and uncertain” after being raped, he is suggesting that women should feel ashamed.

Shame is the feeling most commonly associated with survivors of rape. But if someone’s house is broken into, he or she would not feel ashamed. If someone’s car is stolen, the feelings of shame would not come into play as well. As with having property vandalised and assets stolen, being raped is a crime committed that is nothing of the victim’s doing. With his comments, he is actually perpetrating the feelings of unwarranted shame.

To suggest that a rape survivor’s best chance for any kind of happiness and stability after her traumatic experience would be to marry, and that her possibly repentant attacker is a choice, is extremely demeaning, and also undoubtedly dangerous.

First of all, it is ludicrous to say that the only way that rape survivors are to recover from their trauma is to get married - whether to the perpetrator, or to someone else. Rape survivors will need varying amounts of time to recover from their ordeal, to seek counselling, to regain control of their lives, and to build their confidence again.

I fail to comprehend that the act of marrying to the attacker, having him ingrained in the daily life of a survivor, could contribute to her healing process.

There are certainly other more valid ways to empower rape survivors. Jill Saward chose to speak up about her attack and became the first woman in Great Britain to waive her anonymity as a rape survivor, and eventually became a vocal campaigner against sexual violence. There has been an increasing rate of survivors bravely deciding to come forward, and articulating their ordeals and their experiences, in hopes of helping other survivors. In my opinion, this is infinitely more empowering than marrying the attacker for some semblance of a “certain” future.

Secondly, he claimed that a rapist “is not evil forever”, and may have a process to “repent and regret”, and that their lives could be “better and healthier” through marriage. These are the words of an impenitent rape apologist. He was attempting to excuse the attacker by suggesting that the first course of action is to repent.

May I pose the question to Shabudin on how many “repentant” rapists is he acquainted with? Does he have the facts and figures to statistically back up his claims that survivor’s lives are made better, and that attackers are remorseful and reborn after marriage?

I could certainly draw some examples where a survivor’s life was not even the slightest bit improved after marriage to her attacker, such as the case of Amina Filali in Morocco, who committed suicide after she was forced to marry her rapist. Or, closer to home, the case cited by Member of Parliament Teo Nie Ching, where the rapist married his underaged victim, and then subsequently raped the younger sister...

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