EditorialOPINION

So it’s Okay to Marry Rapists

I almost hit the roof on hearing Datuk Shabudin Yahaya’s rationale about rape victims marrying their perpetrators to reduce social evil. The Member of Parliament for Tasek Gelugor, Penang and an Umno bigwig must be in his element (delirious is more appropriate) when he made this startling revelation during the debate on the Child Sexual Offences against Children Bill at the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday, April 4. “The future of rape victims is not bleak if they are married to their rapists,” he remarked.

Shabudin’s simplistic reasoning may have to do with his background and upbringing. Being a former syariah court judge he must have arbitrated such cases in his court and had passed such judgment. In spite of his stature as an MP and a former syariah court judge, my impression of him is of someone who is lacking in imagination and intellect. A misogynistic dreamer perhaps, one who believes that women are second-class citizens by all reckoning.

I feel he is better off tending to his dwindling rubber plot in Tasek Gelugor than priding himself in being a lawmaker rubbing shoulders with the country’s who’s who in Parliament House.

But like any other politicians, worthy of their salt, Shabudin was quick to dismiss the allegation as something trivial. He told reporters the following day, Wednesday, April 5, that he was being misquoted by the media. “My statement was taken out of context,” he retorted. He had the gumption to claim that the media report was “inaccurate and misleading and borders on fake news”. Since Donald Trump raised the issue of fake news relating to public turnout at his inauguration ceremony on January 20 in Washington, the phrase, “fake news”, is on the lips of many who feel they are being wrongly quoted or represented.

Isn’t Shabudin aware that parliamentary proceedings are being recorded in the house’s Hansard? Transcripts and video clips are available for viewing on request. He must be foolish to think that the rakyat, like him, have poor memory and are prone to melatah (Malay for unintelligent babbling). Perhaps he is one big babbler like some of his senile and over-the-moon mak ciks (aunties) in Tasek Gelugor.

Come on, Shabudin we are not some kampong hillbillies whose IQ is on par with you. Stop patronising us and start treating us as equals and with a modicum of dignity. The problem with some parliamentarians, on both sides of the political divide is, they still consider the rakyat as cannon fodder to be used as and when it suits their fancy.

Allow me to delve a little on Shabudin’s less-than-civil view about rape victims. It has much to do with the paternalistic Asian values and traditions, of which Malaysians are a party. I was raised in such an environment and my conclusions are never far from the truth. Within the Malay community, and other Asiatic communities, women are considered inferior and are seldom taken seriously.

My late father had constantly reminded my mother and my three sisters that they “are only to be seen and not to be heard”. Women’s role is to bear children and to serve the needs of the men folks. “Their inherent physical and mental weaknesses are their undoing,” said my ustaz (religious teacher). And since this is being repeatedly drummed into our heads, it soon becomes the truth.

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth,” said Joseph Goebbels. Hitler’s propaganda minister knew what he was talking about.

For someone who has been raised in a male-dominated environment changing his mindset is definitely difficult. This is how the MP for Tasek Gelugor thinks and feels and that explains why he made such a statement when debating the Sexual Offences against Children Bill. To Shabudin’s closed  mind, it’s perfectly fine for a rape victim to marry the rapist as it is a form of salvation. It is a way to resolve social problems afflicting the Malay Muslim community, he insisted.

The bill was eventually passed. The inclusion of a clause making child marriage unlawful was rejected for reasons of expedience. The legal age for marriage in Malaysia is 21 years old without parents’ consent and 18 years with parents’ consent while the legal age of consent is 16 years old.

On another note: I refer to Mariam Mokthar’s piece titled, “Ipoh’s Station Hotel to be given a New Lease” in Ipoh Echo Issue 255. Those who think that such a development would take place should have a good look at the date of the issue. It’s April 1. You know what that day denotes.

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Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Co-founder and Editor

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