Hornbill Unleashed

May 26, 2011

Tackling Rape Needs Concerted Action Now!

Ann Teo

Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) is saddened but not surprised that more rapes on vulnerable Penan women have been reported

Since this hit the headlines back in 2008, SWWS has been conducting its Empowering Rural Girls (ERG) Project in Baram to raise awareness and to develop systems of help.

The recommendations from this project were submitted to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, the funder of the project. We also note that the Ministry has liaised with the State Government to form an inter-agency committee for Penan women’s development.

It is now high time for all these parties to come together and formulate comprehensive and integrated strategies, and plan to tackle what is happening in the interior.

Three of the eight recommendations are particularly pertinent to the latest case of rape. These are:

1. The government ought to state clearly to all major companies in the interior that they are expected to comply with the sexual harassment code for employees in the work place and surrounding communities, and as part of their corporate social responsibility to regularly provide staff cultural-sensitivity training and HIV/AIDs awareness. For new corporates involved with the construction of dams, oil-palm or forest plantations, this requirement ought to be made legally binding at the point the contract is awarded.

2. The government ought to provide telecommunication links so that all of the villagers can have access to people they trust, and the authorities, when the villagers are faced with a problem. Not all will be able to afford handphones, but these days it is likely there is someone in the village who can.

3. That systems to report rape are made more accessible and user-friendly. The girl at the centre of the present case has had the courage and opportunity to go to the Marudi police to report rape, but the other girls in her village have not been able to use such a system. SWWS has recommended that the rural health clinics are made the first point of call and that the police are provided with their own/government transportation to go to the survivors. Currently the usual practice is for them to go on transport provided by logging companies, as smaller police stations are not supplied with 4WDs.

Dependency on companies for transportation, poverty and the influx of new workers, be they foreigners or locals, into the area must inform this whole area of how to make young girls in the interior safe.

SWWS has been working closely with the State Education Department, Health Department and local communities to raise awareness about sexual abuse amongst youths and provide assistance. We recognize that there are a range of sexually-exploitative situations which not only involve foreigners but also locals working away from home.

This particular case outlined in the Star, however, is clearly rape, and we hope that the focus will remain on this  crime and the rapist. In the past there has been a tendency for the girl or victim to be on trial, or be blamed, and not the criminal.

Following the recent remarks about children born out of wedlock fathered by foreigners, SWWS notes it is should not be a problem registering these children as their mothers are Sarawakian, and so the child is too.

The problem is the long-standing one of many Sarawakians in the interior, in this case Penan women, not having ICs or birth certificates themselves. This situation is improving but still needs more consistent and concerted action by Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara.

The full report which also highlights the need for more action on the very worrying aspect of HIV/AIDS transmission can be accessed through our SWWS website at   http://sarswws.com/SWWS%20Booklet.pdf

ANN TEO – Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS)

1 Comment »

  1. The BN coalitions were not doing much to investigate and prevent vulnerable women and girls from been raped by employees of timber contractors in order not to step on the toes of Taib’s cronies yet many educated native women are just too happy to be associated with PBB, SPDP and PRS. Many were often heard to be dropping names of BN lawmakers whenever they wanted to get attention or something done especially those from Shell Women’s Club and Orang Ulu Women’s Association.

    Comment by Norlia — May 26, 2011 @ 6:49 PM | Reply


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