Hornbill Unleashed

July 7, 2010

A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women

By Rosita Maja

The National Taskforce Report released in September 2009 (Laporan Jawatankuasa Bertindak Peringkat Kebangsaan Bagi Menyiasat Dakwaan Penderaan Seksual Terhadap Wanita Kaum Penan Di Sarawak), confirmed that the allegations of sexual violence and exploitation of Penan women and girls by loggers was true.

Another mission, by NGOs, was set up two months after the report was made available, because of the unsatisfactory response by the Sarawak state authorities, and their denial of the findings of the National Taskforce Report.

This new fact-finding mission was initiated by the Penan Support Group, a coalition of 36 NGOs, with the joint efforts of  FORUM-ASIA and the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN). The mission aimed to further explore and document the incidences of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation and to bring in new evidence to further confirm that the allegations of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women in Middle and Ulu Baram by loggers are indeed true.

The PSG fact-finding mission visited three Penan communities and one Kenyah community, and listened to evidence there, from thirteen Penan communities.

The mission discovered seven previously undocumented cases of sexual abuse. The cases all point to a systematic pattern of violence, including threats, harassment, abduction, rape, physical assault, emotional abuse, coercion into marriage and desertion upon pregnancy.

In the seven cases documented, five cases involved women who were deserted upon becoming pregnant. All of the seven cases involved logging company workers.

The report revealed that loggers attempted to coerce or cheat young Penan girls into sexual relationships by promising to marry them, and lying to the girls that the loggers were unmarried. Some were raped before they were forced to “marry” the loggers, resulting in the victims being brought to their camps for further sexual abuse and continued rape.

Criminal law provides that the crime is rape even if there is consent to a sexual relationship, if the consent is procured or given as a consequence of “a misconception of fact”. Therefore, if the loggers who managed to procure sexual relationships under the misrepresentation that they were unmarried, though they already had wives and children and promised to “marry” the victims, this crime clearly falls under the offence of rape under Section 375(c) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

Under these circumstances, we must ask the police, in particular the Sarawak police, why no action has been taken on the perpetrator who has been identified as one Ah Hing or Mr Eu, aged 45. Why has he not been charged or even called in for any form of interrogation by the police on the allegations of his sexual abuse of one of the victims, Bibi (not her real name)? Bibi, a name given by the Ministry’s taskforce, had lodged her police report at Bukit Aman in 2008.

Why is the Sarawak police hunting for the whereabouts of the NGO messenger who brought two rape victims to Bukit Aman to lodge police reports, while the police make no effort to hunt for the perpetrator of alleged sexual abuse?

Ah Hing’s identity, including his photograph, Mykad number and marital status of having two wives (both registered as mothers of his children with Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN)) before he met Bibi, was extensively reported in media reports on the internet. Yet until today he is still roaming free, not charged yet for any crime committed against the Penan girl Bibi. The alleged perpetrator had committed the offence of polygamy and had cheated the Penan girl into a sexual relationship under the misconception of fact that he is “unmarried”, an offence under Section 375(c) of the CPC.

Can claiming a rape victim is his “wife” absolve a rapist from being charged for raping a woman?

As the report showed that all seven documented cases involve loggers, it cannot be denied that the occurrences of rape and sexual abuses are associated with the existence of logging activities, which have directly aggravated the vulnerability of the Penan community. The lack of attention and protection afforded to the Penan community by the state authorities has allowed the sexual abuse and exploitation to continue and flourish, causing untold suffering in the Penan community.

The Sarawak state government must address the issue of the allegations of rape and sexual exploitation in the wider context of the negative impact of logging activities upon the Penan lands and community.

There have been numerous calls from civil society for urgent action by the government, in response to many media reports, even before the findings of the National Taskforce were made public last September. A copy of the National Taskforce report was also hand delivered to our Prime Minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, earlier this year for her attention and action, but Rosmah has not responded to the issue so far.

A copy of the Report of this mission “A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women and Girls in Middle and Ulu Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia” was also delivered to Rosmah Mansor after its release , in the faint hope that she can try to make a difference to the lives of the suffering Penan girls and women.

Another copy of “A Wider Context of Sexual Exploitation of Penan Women and Girls in Middle and Ulu Baram, Sarawak, Malaysia” has been delivered to Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak Alfred Jabu anak Numpang’s office yesterday morning by PKR women leaders, Ibi Uding ( Wanita Chief ) , Nurhanim Mokshen ( Deputy Chief ) and S.N. Voon.

Will justice be done?

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2 Comments »

  1. More proof will reveal here. please come back to check on this site.

    Comment by Words — July 8, 2010 @ 4:34 AM | Reply

  2. Are you sure? Why not looking for the real proof! I mean medical report.

    Comment by jeksen abdullah — July 8, 2010 @ 2:38 AM | Reply


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