MP SPEAKS | Recently, an event during a parliamentary debate had caught a lot of media attention.
In their reports and headlines, both the local and international media had given the perception that I had condoned rapists being allowed to marry underage victims to avoid punishment.
This is inaccurate and misleading and borders on fake news. The media reports refer to an event during a debate on the Sexual Offences against Children 2017 Bill, which was eventually passed.
One MP had proposed an amendment to this bill that would ban underage child marriages while I had given an opinion that under certain circumstances, the current flexibility should remain.
Generally, the legal age for marriage in Malaysia is 21 years old without parents' consent and 18 years with their parents' consent while the legal age of consent is 16 years old.
However, in certain cases, those below the legal age can marry if given a special marriage licence from the head of their particular state government or approved by a judge in a lawful court.
As the legal age of consent is 16 years old, any individual regardless of age who had sexual relations with a minor - whether consensual or not - is deemed to have committed statutory rape under our Penal Code and will be charged accordingly.
I am a former judge. Based on my experience of past cases, I argued that flexibility and the discretion of the judges must be maintained to allow the courts to rule on cases of statutory rape involving consenting partners who are in a relationship and be treated differently from non-consensual rape - as opposed to an outright ban on underage marriages as proposed by the other MP.
In the debate, I stressed that rape - whether consensual statutory rape or otherwise - is a crime. At no point in time did I suggest that the victims are forced to marry the victim nor did I say that the crime of rape is automatically dropped after marriage.
To avoid any doubt, I and Malaysia condemn sexual crimes in the harshest terms and Malaysia has never hesitated to prosecute and punish sex predators to the full limits of our law.
It is regrettable that inaccurate media reports had misled the public and caused an unnecessary outcry.
This had overshadowed news of the passing of Malaysia's landmark Sexual Offences against Children 2017 Bill which has provided considerably more protection to minors from sexual predators. Minors in Malaysia now enjoy unparalleled levels of legal protection.
The above is the full statement issued by Tasek Gelugor parliamentarian Shabudin Yahaya through Bernama.
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