Child sexual abuse: Is the punishment deterrent enough?

The four defendants at the magistrate’s court in Kota Samarahan in June.

THE scene at the Sessions Court in Kota Samarahan was rather busy as reporters swarmed the complex, waiting for an important proceedings last Friday.

It was on that very day judge Marutin Pagan ended a six-year-long torment of a teenager and her younger sister from a village in Tebedu, near Serian, through his verdict against the girls’ grandfather, father and two uncles.

He had sentenced the four farmers, aged between 26 and 57, to 335 years of imprisonment after they pleaded guilty to 13 counts of committing incest with the victims between June 1, 2011 until last month.

The victims’ grandfather, father and the third defendant, the sisters’ 26-year-old uncle, were sentenced to 25 years’ jail for each offence.

The victims’ other uncle, 28, who faced four charges of having sexual intercourse with the sisters, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment each for the first two charges and 30 years’ jail each for the other two charges.

All jail sentences for all of the accused were to run concurrently from the date of their arrest.

The four were also slapped with 24 strokes of the rotan each.

The older victim, who is 19, is 26 weeks’ pregnant. She was 13 when she became the object of lust of her grandfather, father and uncles.

Her younger sister is 14. Both victims have been placed at two protection shelters, supervised by the state Welfare Department.

As the department turns its focus to help the victims overcome the traumatic experience, the authorities were again confronted with a similar case involving a Form Three student of a religious school in Saratok.

The teenager, 15, confided in her school counsellor that she was raped on seven occasions by her father for the past three years. The father was arrested and has been remanded until Friday.

Preliminary investigations into the case, which is being probed under Section 376B of the Penal Code for incest, however, revealed a disturbing detail — the mother of the victim, who was the only child in the family, knew of her husband’s heinous act.

The woman claimed she turned a “blind eye” after she was threatened not to expose her husband’s wrongdoings.

Although there was no information how bad the threat was, the state’s statistics on domestic violence cases do not paint a good picture.

A total of 279 domestic violence cases were reported in 2015, and the figures drastically rose to 427 cases the following year. In the first seven months of this year, 323 cases have been reported.

The recurrence of sexual assault cases against children and teenagers by their own family members has sparked many arguments on social media.

Among the questions repeatedly asked was whether the present legislation is deterrent enough to set a lesson for others from committing the same offence.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said she personally believed that no punishment was equivalent to the crime committed by sexual offenders against their kin.

“Personally, I don’t think the punishments stipulated in the present law are enough to punish these irresponsible people.

“This is irrational. How can they do this to their own children? I don’t know what to say, I am angered by this.

“We (the ministry) have carried out campaigns promoting good parenting and creating awareness of sexual crimes against children, but these cases still persist. I am baffled,” said the  minister recently.

Nevertheless, Rohani said the government was doing everything in its power to punish offenders of sexual crimes against children.

Such commitment, she said, was reflected in the setting up of a special court for sexual crimes against children in Putrajaya on July 4.

The court helps the prosecution team establish stronger cases against those accused of committing such offences due to the nature of the court. Similar courts will also be established in every state soon.

The state government has also conducted two surveys to look for ways to address problems relating to statutory rape cases and incest.

At this juncture, it is imperative to continue to educate children and teenagers about incest and sexual abuse.


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