Legal reform on rape vital


  • Community
  • Friday, 29 Jul 2016

KUCHING: Prompt legal reform, including amending the Penal Code’s definition of rape, is needed to better protect children, said the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS).

Welcoming the determination of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah to close the loophole in the law regarding “finger rape”, SWWS, nevertheless, expressed concern about the Attorney-General Department’s reply to her that the call for a wider definition of rape would be accommodated within the Child (Amendment) Act.

“The A-G’s office, as the expert in the laws of the country, should have known that the definition of sexual abuse under the original Child Act was wider than the definition of rape in the Penal Code.

“The problem lies in the mindset of police and prosecutors to refer to the Penal Code when bringing charges rather than remembering the wider scope of the Child Act, now superseded by the Child (Amendment) Act,” it said in a statement.

To avoid this problem recurring, SWWS said the Penal Code needed urgent amendment to broaden the definition of rape from penile penetration only to include fingers and other objects.

“This also has the advantage of covering adults as well as children who are raped by such means,” SWWS said.

It was responding to Fatimah’s call for the Penal Code’s definition of rape to be amended soonest, following the gazetting of the Child (Amendment) Act on Monday.

Fatimah had said it was “disappointing” that the amendments to the Child Act did not include the definition of rape and hoped this could be done by amending the Penal Code.

She added that the acquittal of a 60-year-old man in the “finger rape” case last year showed that the current definition was too specific.

SWWS noted that the Court of Appeal judges, in their written decision on the “finger rape” case, said specifically that the definition of rape should be changed or expanded.

“This needs to be expedited. Like the recent call for grooming to become an offence, prompt legal reform is needed to protect our children,” it said, urging Sarawakian elected representatives to press for prompt action.

SWWS also called for more resources to be allocated to ensure effective implementation of the Child (Amendment) Act.

While SWWS supports the establishment of a child registry and intention to develop family-based services at community level, it said this would only work with inter-agency collaboration and appropriate staffing.

“Of particular importance is for child protection officers (empowered under the Act to assess the needs of children and take appropriate action to ensure their long-term wellbeing) to be adequately trained.

“Therefore SWWS also calls for the proposed Social Work Act to be enacted so government welfare officers are given the requisite skills,” it said.

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