by DAP Women National Executive Council Chairwoman and MP for Bukit Mertajam, Chong Eng
in Petaling Jaya
on Monday, 15th April 2002
DAP Women National Executive Council calls on the Minister in the Prime Minister Department, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim to solicit inputs from organisation and individuals that have been working closely with incest and
rape victims before deciding on stiffer sentences against such crimes.
We appreciate the concern of Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi about increased cases of incest and recent occurrences of violence against young female children. However, we wish to point out that both Abdullah and Rais do not have practical experience of working with victims of incest and sexual abuse. Therefore, they probably do not have a full understanding of the dynamics involved in incest and sexual abuses.
We strongly feel that inputs from individuals like Dr. Amar Singh, a consultant community paediatrician in the Ipoh General Hospital, who has worked for many years with children who have been sexually abused or are
victims of incest, and organisations like Women Crisis Centre, Women Aids Organisation and All Women Action Movement which have immense experience in the same field, would be invaluable.
For example, Dr. Amar in a letter to the Star dated 13th April 2002, pointed out that at least 8.3% of all Malaysian female and 2.1% of all male had been sexually abused or had suffered incest in their childhood. However, very few cases of incest or sexual abuse had been brought to court and even fewer ended up with conviction. This is because under the present Criminal Procedure Code, it is difficult to provide sufficient evidence, especially when it involves underage children.
Under such circumstances, it is pointless to impose stiffer penalties.
Women Crisis Centre president, Ms. Lim Kah Cheong, a lawyer who also has many years of experience working with victims of incest and rape, had cautioned that a more severe sentence may produce a counter-effect. She pointed out that incest carries with it a tremendous social stigma and places great pressure on the victims and family members. Sometimes, victims were being blamed for breaking up the family and causing the father to be sent to jail. The situation was made worse where the accused was the only breadwinner in the family. This would in turn deter victims from coming out openly.
We are of the opinion that while the perpetrators of such crimes ought to be punished, the impact on the victims and their families must be considered as well. We must avoid a situation whereby a more severe penalty is translated into a more serious social and economic impact on the victims and their families.
We agree with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that education is more important to create awareness about the severity of incest. We therefore propose that the Ministry concerned initiate discussions with individuals and NGOs that have done a lot of good work and research in this field. This is in order that the government can adopt a holistic approach in tackling incest and sexual abuse of young children and preventing its continual occurrence.