Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said’s “deafening” silence on the issue of amendments to the definition of rape under the Penal Code and improvements to the laws dealing with the criminal act, has come under fire.
Sarawak PKR Women’s Vice-President Voon Shiak Ni was quoted in the Borneo Post as saying that Azalina had yet to respond on the matter despite repeated calls by politicians and civil society for reforms in the law.
Voon also reminded the de facto Law Minister of her predecessor Nancy Shukri saying the amendments to the laws, which was in the final stage when she left the portfolio, was now in Azalina’s hands.
“We do not want to see further delay in the amendment of the definition due to the change in the law minister, which is the problem we have been facing whenever there is frequent changing of ministers in the Cabinet.
“We wish to put it to all the ministries that there ought to be in place, an effective system for the smooth handling of all pending issues to the successor of any portfolios,” Voon was quoted as saying by the Sarawak daily.
Among the proposed amendments to Section 376 of the Penal Code, which deals with rape, is to widen the definition of rape to include the insertion of a finger, and not just a penis.
The outcry for such an amendment came following the “finger rape” case involving a 60-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl in 2011.
The suspect, Bunya Jalong, was acquitted and discharged of four counts of raping the teen at a hotel in Sibu, after he said he had merely inserted his semen-smeared finger into the girl’s vagina. This despite the girl giving birth to a baby boy later, and a subsequent DNA test proving that Bunya was the biological father.
Existing laws limit the definition of rape to penile penetration without consent, the Borneo Post reported.
Calls for improvement on laws relating to rape have also increased following several cases where the rapists walked free after their victims were married off to them.
Voon also took the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to task, over its alleged failure to address complaints of abuse and rape of Penan girls in Sarawak, after the change of hands in the ministry’s leadership.
She charged that Rohani Abdul Karim, who took over from Ng Yen Yen, had not responded to the issue and had provided no updates.