Marital rape is still rape: Malaysian activist Tan
By Victoria Brown, The Star/Asia News NetworkPETALING JAYA, Malaysia--Marital rape is not recognized as rape in Malaysia, according to family law practitioner Honey Tan.
August 14, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
“There are child marriages happening in Malaysia. So if there is a girl being raped within that marriage, it isn't considered as rape,” said Tan.
“What the government needs to do is take away the exception in Section 375 of the penal code,” she said.
The exception in Section 375 of the penal code states: “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife by a marriage which is valid under any written law for the time being in force, or is recognized in the Federation as valid, is not rape.”
“'Rape' should be defined as having sex with somebody without their consent, or by force. (It is a problem) when the law does not recognize that if in a marriage, a wife is forced, without her consent, into having sex with her husband — that is rape,” said Tan.
She added that there were many people who would still put the blame of being raped on the victim, instead of on the rapist.
“For example, there are people who would blame a woman who was raped on the way she dressed. If that's the case, then what about rape victims who wore the tudung (head scarf) when it happened?” she said.
Many women's groups in Malaysia, such as the Women's Aid Organization (WAO) have been lobbying for recognition of marital rape under Malaysian law.
“Being married to someone does not entitle you to have sex with that person whenever you want. Nonconsensual sex is rape no matter what. A wife is not a husband's property,” said Yu Ren Chung, an advocacy Officer at WAO.
Yu said that laws against rape in Malaysia had a very narrow definition of what 'rape' is. Marital rape is currently not recognized as rape, and is only punishable based on any potential or actual physical harm inflicted on the victim, he said.
“We work with many women who shared their stories about their abusive husbands forcing them to have sex, sometimes even using objects. Many don't use the term 'rape', as they don't know that they can say 'no' to their husbands.”
Yu recalls that in 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women committee had requested that Malaysia enact legislation criminalizing marital rape, defining such rape on the basis of lack of consent of the wife.
Tan, the family law practitioner, described the recent change in criminal procedure code in Malaysia as “good.”
“If you look at Section 183A in the Criminal Procedure Code, there's now a thing called a victim impact statement,” she said. “That will actually have an impact on the sentencing. So that's a really excellent development.”
The victim impact statement allows for the victim to choose whether or not he or she wants to make a statement on how the crime had impacted herself and her family, before the court imposes a sentence onto the accused.