Rape is seen as a heinous crime even by prisoners' standards, and convicted rapists often face a hard time in jail. Nevertheless, the Prisons Department wants to rehabilitate such prisoners, writes YIP YOKE TENG.
PRISONERS have their own set of ethics. They don’t like rapists, especially those whose victims are children, and they will take every opportunity to humiliate and attack these men.
For this reason, warders seldom ask the rapists about the details of their cases. On the other hand, some of the rapists are not always frank, not even with counsellors. They make all kinds of excuses to justify their crime.
Aziz (not his real name), who was sentenced to 40 years’ jail for raping his then 14-year-old daughter, is one of them.
“I was suffering from mental problems,” the 60-year-old declared at the start of this interview.
“I couldn’t control my emotions. I didn’t know what I was doing sometimes.” But his eyes shifted uneasily as he said this.
Aziz has been in prison for six years now. He escaped the mandatory caning sentence because he was over 50 years old when he was convicted.
He insisted that he wouldn't have done it had he been well, and that he had been having mental problems since he was 15. He also claimed that he came from a poor and dysfunctional family and had been starved and forced to do hard jobs.
“These problems stressed me up, and I lost control of my mind,” he said, squinting occasionally as he talked.
Aziz said the daughter he raped, his sixth child and youngest daughter, had forced his hand.
“She brought shame to the family. “When she was only 13, she was very rebellious, stole things, mixed with naughty friends and told lies, probably because she longed for an easy life.”
“I wanted to educate her. I scolded her and even resorted to caning sometimes. But her heart was hard. She only listened to her friends and she hurt me. That got on my nerve. I couldn’t control myself,” he said in one breath.
As if to emphasise that he was mentally unstable, he said he was puzzled when the police nabbed him at home after his daughter lodged a report.
“I was wondering if I really did anything wrong,” he said.
He insisted that he has the support of his wife, 53, and other children aged between 15 and 27. “They are mad with her, too,” he said.
His family, he went on, visits him every month.
“It shows that they understand my intentions and have forgiven me. They share with me good news in the family, like my fifth son is getting married soon.”
The girl ran away from home after his trial in July last year, and none of his family members has seen her since, he added.
“Now that my mind is clear, I feel regret. I pray hard and hope that Allah will forgive me.”
Aziz said he sympathised with the other rapists.
“I also wonder why they did it, but I think there must be another side to the story. We can’t blame it on one man. Take me as an example, if my child had been obedient, I wouldn’t have done that to her!”
He knows he may die before he serves out his sentence, and is therefore hoping for an early release.
“I hope I can get out earlier. Life is hard here but I can still tolerate it.”
Of the almost 5,000 inmates currently in Kajang Prison, 124 are rape convicts. More than 80% of these are acquaintance rapes, where the victims are the rapists’ girlfriends, family members or friends. Incestuous rape is the second largest segment in this group.
In a lot of cases, the rapists have claimed that they were dating their victims, and that sex was consensual until the relationship turned sour or the woman became pregnant.
Kumar, 32, who was put behind bars five years ago, said this was what happened in his case.
“I was already married when I met her. I kept my marriage a secret, and we were together for four years. My wife knew about it, but she accepted it. When the girl later found out that I was married, she accused me of raping her,” related Kumar. Twenty-seven years in jail was the price he had to pay for marital infidelity.
Those convicted of sexual crimes undergo the same rehabilitation process as other prisoners.
“In addition, they also do special modules emphasising on spiritual teachings and family skills,” said Ajidin Salleh, deputy director (vocational) of the Prisons Department’s Rehabilitation and Treatment Division.
The programme starts with an orientation session where prison officers become acquainted with the background of the men.
“They often claim that they were mentally deranged – drunk or suffering from mental illnesses. They will never admit that they did it intentionally, no matter how many times they did it,” said Ajidin, referring to cases of incest.
“They don't see their children as their flesh and blood who need their protection.”
Many of those convicted of incest are from rural areas, earn low incomes and are not highly educated, Ajidin said.
“But that doesn’t mean these are the factors that drove them to commit the crime. There are more of such cases in rural areas probably because the men there do not have easy access to brothels and they take the easiest way to satisfy their lust –the girls in their family.
Mischievous and pretentious, the convicted rapist is a difficult subject to study, Ajidin said.
“But they share one thing in common – a weak grounding in religion. That is why the Therapeutic Community or Halaquah (religious) programmes are crucial.
“We need to instil these values in them. We don’t tell them what to do, but we make them aware and give them suggestions,” he said.
For at least six months, the convicted rapists live with other participants of the programme in the same block to address each other’s mistakes and weaknesses with the help of respective religious teachings. After this, they join other prisoners in the vocational programmes.
“We need to be optimistic, we have to think that everyone can be rehabilitated. That’s our objective after all,” Ajidin said.
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