PETALING JAYA: Stepfathers make up most of the accused in incest cases brought to courts nationwide since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
These men were involved in 149 (45%) of the total number of 334 incest cases registered and charged in Malaysian courts between January 2020 and June this year.
Biological fathers comprised 35% or 116 cases based on data from the Malaysian judiciary made available to Sunday Star.
“Some 128 cases ended up with the perpetrators being convicted,” said the Office of the Registrar of the Subordinate Court of Malaya.
Other perpetrators of incest cases included uncles, siblings, grandfathers, brothers-in-law and cousins.
There were also cases involving a mother and her child, as well as an aunt and her nephew.
“Most victims were under 16, the age of consent, when the offence took place,” the office added.
To ease the trauma suffered by the victims during proceedings, the office said major courts in each state had enabled children to give evidence in a separate room from the perpetrator.
Measures were also taken according to the National Guideline on Sexual Offences against Children produced in 2017.
It was recently reported that the police received an average of 15 incest cases each month, with most reports lodged by the victims themselves.
More worryingly, the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has received more complaints of incest and child sexual abuse since the first movement control order in March last year.
“Last year when the MCO began, we received reports about 15 incest cases through our hotline and WhatsApp messaging service, Tina.
“This year, 19 complaints of incest were recorded between January and May,” said WAO deputy executive director Yu Ren Chung.
“The sad reality is that some families opt to withdraw their reports due to fear of stigma,” said Selangor Bar chairman Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo.
“But at the end of the day, it is still up to the prosecution to pursue the case in court.
“There were cases where victims were pressured by family members to withdraw their complaints due to fear of the humiliation that it would bring to the family name.
“The tendency for society to blame the victims of such cases also acts as a barrier in reporting incest,” she added.
At times, the crime was not reported for fear of not receiving financial support from the family breadwinner who committed the incest.
However, Kokila said these factors should not stand in the way of upholding justice for the victims.
Those who need advice and support for domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of violence can contact WAO through its hotline at 03-3000 8858 or its SMS/WhatsApp line known as Tina at 018-988 8058.
The public can also call the government’s 24-hour Talian Kasih 15999 hotline or WhatsApp 019-261 5999.