When the Umno-Baru MP for Tasek Gelugor, Shabudin Yahya, made what he later claimed was his personal opinion about child rape and marriage, he probably did not expect to unleash a firestorm.
A doctor’s story
One doctor has related the stories of two underage girls who were raped. Her story is about the Malaysian law system, which she claims has not improved.
In the first case the DPP had failed to call their witness, who was the psychiatrist who assessed the victim’s ability to endure cross-examination, because the evidence has been lost. Without the evidence, the magistrate was unable to weigh the seriousness of the offence.
The doctor lamented that this was a common problem with the Malaysian police and DPP. Victims have to depend on incompetent DPPs, whilst the rapists could afford to hire the best legal representatives. Only one in ten rapes are reported, because victims believe the whole process to be a waste of time.
Problems going to trial
Another challenge faced by rape victims is the long waiting time, for the case to be heard. The usual waiting period is three to five years, during which time, the child’s memory will probably fade. The child would like to erase the rape from her memory, but is constantly reminded of the crime, each time she is questioned about it.
The emotional and psychological make-up of a girl changes, as she ages from seven to 12-years old. When she is 12, she will be embarrassed and psychologically disturbed by the rape.
The doctor said there were several postponements, during the victim’s five year wait for her case to be heard. These delays were caused by the DPP or the judge going on leave, the lawyer being unavailable, the witness being unable to attend, too many cases to be heard on a particular day. Some cases were postponed for no real reason.
Issues faced when the rapist suddenly pleads guilty
In the second case, the victim, her family and the counsellor, had to attend court ten times during the five year wait. Before the trial, the victim would have received counselling from the psychiatrist and lawyer, to prepare her for cross-examination, only for the case to be postponed.
After five years, everyone who needed to be at the trial was present, but the rapist pleaded guilty. The court was forced to grant him a lighter sentence, as he was deemed to have regretted his action, simply because he changed his plea.
The doctor added that when the rapist pleaded guilty, the feeling of sympathy was shifted to the offender, and the victim was totally ignored.
With the plea change, the judge would have to decide on an appropriate sentence, without having heard the evidence, the severity of the crime, or the long term psychological damage to the victim.
Victims denied justice
The mother of the victim was so frustrated and exhausted by the delay, that she abandoned the search for the so-called justice. She was reluctant for her lawyers to lodge an appeal because she did not think it would have made any difference. She felt that her daughter had already suffered enough, while the case dragged on, and was reluctant to subject her daughter to further trauma.
Perhaps, Shabudin Yahya, would like to chat to the doctors, who treat the child victims of rape and see how his remarks about marrying the rapist and his victim are totally abhorrent.
He could investigate and resolve the delays in court, the DPPs who lose evidence, and help improve the efficiency of the courts, so that victims would feel confident about pressing charges, to get justice, instead of suffering in silence.
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