KOTA KINABALU: The family of a 13-year-old rape victim hopes that she can move on with her life and go back to school now that the culprit has been sentenced to 12 years’ jail and ordered to be given two strokes of the rotan.
Rights groups have lauded the sentencing, saying it sent a “loud and clear” message to would-be rapists.
An aunt who has been taking care of the girl said she was a bright student and dreamed of becoming a doctor.
“We just want her to get on with her life and achieve her dreams,” said the sister of the girl’s father outside the Sessions Court after 41-year-old restaurant manager Riduan Masmud was sentenced.
Riduan was found guilty of raping the girl, then about 12, in a car by a roadside near the Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam between 9am and 10am on Feb 18, last year.
On May 20, last year, Riduan told the court that he had married the girl, but the Attorney-General’s Chambers decided to go ahead and prosecute him for the offence.
Sessions judge Ummu Kalthom Abdul Samad, when sentencing Riduan, noted that the girl had stopped schooling since the incident and was deprived of her “teenage life” when she became a housewife.
Hailing the sentence, the Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group said the penalty would send a strong message to would-be rapists that they could not prey on children and then try to manipulate the system to escape punishment.
“This is important because of the worrying trend in rape committed against children in Sabah,” said its president Winnie Yee.
She noted that 80% of rape cases in the state last year involved girls under the age of 16. Of this, 17% could be categorised as paedophilia as the victims were 13 years and below while the rapists were at least five years older.
In KUALA LUMPUR, Bar Council chairman Christopher Leong said the decision reflected the serious views held by law and society on statutory rape.
“It is also a welcome message that perpetrators cannot use the device of marrying the underage victim as an excuse to escape criminal liability,” he said.
Leong also commended the Attorney-General’s Chambers on the prosecution, and said parents should realise that marrying a child to her rapist often added to the harm done to their daughters.
Association of Women Lawyers president Meera Samanther said the decision showed that justice could and would be served.
“The message in the judgment is loud and clear – rapists cannot circumvent punishment by marrying the victim,” she added.
Sisters In Islam programme manager Suri Kempe said a rehabilitation order should have been included in the sentence to address the root cause of the rapist’s behaviour.
“The man did not see anything wrong with his actions and has thus far expressed no remorse. He even made a public announcement that he was going to marry his victim and tried to circumvent the criminal justice system,” she added.
Syariah Lawyers Association secretary-general Moeis Basri said the girl had to apply for an annulment as the Syariah Court could not do so on its own despite the man being convicted.
“The Syariah Court on its own motion cannot annul the marriage unless the wife applies to the court for it to be dissolved.
“Under the Syariah law, if the husband is imprisoned for more than a year, the wife can apply for a dissolution,” he said.
Moeis said the conviction was an important lesson that a rapist could not escape punishment by marrying his victim, especially when she is a minor.
“It sends an important message to society that marriage is not a licence to escape rape charges.”