Target: Mr. Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, Member of the Malaysian Parliament
Goal: Demand a formal apology for suggesting that rape victims should marry their rapists to avoid a bleak future.
A member of the Malaysian parliament stated that rape victims could avoid a “bleak future” by marrying their rapists. Mr. Datuk Shabudin Yahaya went on with his outraging comments saying that girls as young as 12 years old might be “spiritually and physically” ready for marriage. Therefore, Mr. Yahya not only softened the consequences of sexual violation but also justified the practice of statutory rape. Malaysia is a country with extremely high rates of sexual and other gender-based violence, and women of all ages are always vulnerable. Mr. Yahya’s comments sent a wrong message across the country, and his views should be fiercely opposed.
Statistics by the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) based in the Malaysian state of Penang indicate that a woman is raped in Malaysia every 35 minutes. Among the rape victims, many are underage girls, 16 years old or under. To these startling statistics, one should also add reports of domestic violence, molestation, and sexual harassment in general. It is very hard to be a woman and feel safe in Malaysia and any comment trivializing the experience of rape is not only an offense to the victims’ misfortune but also a complete lack of sensibility to the landscape of the country. As a former judge, Mr. Yahya acknowledged that rape is a crime, but he recklessly suggested a path for rapists to get away with it in case they are caught.
When Mr. Yahya made his comments, the Malaysian parliament debated a bill on sexual offenses against children. Feminist and human rights activists are working hard to divest Malaysia from a dark path and groups have rallied behind this bill and other important campaigns. That is why it is so crucial that Mr. Yahya publicly apologizes for his shocking suggestion, contributing to the enforcement of the cultural change the country needs. Sign the petition below to push for this outcome.
Dear Mr. Yahaya,
Suggesting that a victim of sexual violence should marry her rapist to ward off a “bleak future” and that marriage would make perpetrators and their victims avoid social problems and “turn a new leaf” is completely outrageous. Your comments in a recent debate in the Malaysian parliament are as startling, as are the statistics of sexual violence in Malaysia. In your country, a woman is raped every 35 minutes; many of these rape victims are underage girls. While you expressed your complete lack of sensibility to the situation in Malaysia, you also encouraged the sexual abuse of minors by saying that 12-year-old girls might be ready for marriage.
I urge you to publicly apologize for trivializing the experience of sexual violence and statutory rape. You sent a very wrong message to Malaysian people – men in particular – in a moment civil society is engaged in changing the terrible conditions that overwhelm women and promoting a cultural shift in your country.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Vin Crosbie