#BrightFutureRapeOK: “anyone with the right ‘credentials’ can commit a crime”
Anger rising in Malaysia over talks of reducing age of consent
Malaysia women question, angry over debate of age of consent.
KUALA LUMPUR: Anger is on the rise, at cafes, at homes and on the streets over proposals that could see Malaysia reduce the age of consent for girls to 13- or 14-years-old.
“My daughter is 13-years-old at the moment. There is no reasonable explanation that would give her the knowledge and life experience to have sexual relations at this age,” said Kuala Lumpur mother Farida, who told Bikyamasr.com “the government is trying to save face after allowing a 19-year-old to get away without jail for raping a 13-year-old girl. There is no reason to think she knew what she was doing.”
She was referring to the controversial case that saw the Malaysia High Court throw out the rape case of former national team bowler Nor Afizal Azizan earlier this month.
He admitted having sex with a then-13-year-old girl in a hotel room in 2010.
On Monday, however, the court in a statement said that because he was only 19-years-old at the time and had not coerced the girl, they believed prison would have been too harsh.
More shocking to many Malaysians was the reasoning behind the release.
The judges were reported to have agreed with Azizan’s lawyer, who argued that “public interest would not be served if Noor Afizal was sent to jail as he had a bright future.” (bold is mine)
The Joint Action Group For Gender Equality, which comprises 6 leading Malaysian women’s groups, in a statement on Sunday called on the judiciary to clarify its decision.
“We are troubled that the perpetrator’s potential for ‘a bright future’, presumably derived from his status as a national athlete, was used as one of the grounds for sentencing,” it said.
“On the surface, the judgment appears to hint at the application of a double standard by implying that anyone with the right ‘credentials’ can commit a crime (bold is mine), and get away with a rap on the knuckles,” it added.
Making matters worse, online Malaysians took aim at the court with the hashtag #BrightFutureRapeOK (bold is mine). They argued that the ruling shows double standards in the country and gives tacit approval for rape in Malaysia.
As a result, experts in the country are now debating lowering the age of consent to 16-years-old in statutory rape case as they site children “maturing at a younger age.”
One lawyer, quoted by The Star newspaper, Edmund Bon argued that maturity and “their understanding of sex and consent should be considered.”
“The education system needs to provide advance sex education, teach children their rights, make them more assertive and help them understand what rape is and what consent means,” he said, but declined to state if he was in favour of either increasing or reducing the age of consent from 16.
While the Attorney-General’s office can look at lower the age of consent, the outspoken and widespread anger appears to have begun to silence the government’s studying of reducing the age.
“They better not or they will have parents on the streets in protest,” added Farida.