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Response To Tasek Gelugor MP, Datuk Shabudin Yahaya on Rape Survivors Marrying Their Rapist (5 April 2017)
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Sisters in Islam is very concerned by the statement made by Tasek Gelugor MP, Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, that a rape survivor will have a better and secure future by marrying their rapist. It is a shocking and deplorable suggestion that undermines the severity and emotional trauma experienced by a rape survivor.

In his statement, he had said that there was “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying the rapist and suggested it as a “remedy” to reduce social problems. Morally repugnant, such a statement also reflects how oblivious the MP is of the fact that rape is a crime punishable under Federal Law.

The Penal Code criminalises statutory rape when the victim is under the age of 16, even when it is claimed that she consented to sexual intercourse. Allowing the perpetrator to marry his victim allows him to escape persecution and severely undermines not just a law to protect children but the Islamic principle of justice.

Datuk Shabudin’s statement is divorced from the reality in Malaysia where child marriage has been used by rapists to either avoid or attempt avoiding prosecution. Often, parents of the rape victim are so ashamed that they are directly complicit in influencing the underage girl to marry her rapist.

Suggesting that marriage and statutory rape can be conflated is a mockery to Islam. Marriage in Islam is about love, compassion, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between husband and wife - it is a union of mawaddah wa rahmah. How can there be love and compassion if there is an unfair balance of power between the spouses and a threat of sexual abuse in the marriage right from the start? How can there be mawaddah wa rahmah when a marriage is solemnised as a way to absolve a crime and guilt of a rapist?

While the syariah does not provide a specific age vis-a-vis marriage, it talks about maturity as a prerequisite for anyone to enter into marriage. A study by Al Azhar University and UNICEF on the rights of the child expand on the issue: "There is clearly a difference between attaining puberty and physical aptitude on the one hand, and maturity and the qualification to manage life on the other. Married life necessitates that both husband and wife are enlightened and sensible; it is not, therefore, served by the marriage of children."

No child aged 9, whether girl or boy, whether possessing more mature physical attributes or not, can ever be ready for marriage and all the responsibilities it entails. If nothing else, such a child is not able to fend for themselves, let alone a spouse.

SIS therefore reiterates its call for the minimum age of marriage for girls to be reviewed and raised to 18 years, without exception.

Sisters in Islam
5th April 2017

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