Saturday, November 16, 2002

More object to death penalty for child rapists

More object to death penalty for child rapists

Susan Loone
Nov 16, 02 08:41am

More objections are pouring in over the proposed death penalty for child rapists which is likely to be accepted by the Cabinet soon.
Universiti Sains Malaysia associate professor Dr Rohana Ariffin, who is currently undertaking a project to profile rape perpetrators in prisons, said the proposed penalty was too “drastic” and may lead to adverse consequences for the victims.

For example, she said, due to the heavy penalty, rape perpetrators may decide to kill their victims to prevent themselves from being indentified.

Likewise, those who are related to the perpetrator, such as their father, brother or uncle, may refused to come forward to lodge a report for fear for sending the relative to the gallows.

“This will certainly place the victim in a much higher danger. There is no guarantee that the death penalty can reduce the crime rate, perpetrators may just decide to take the risk,” she told malaysiakini today when contacted in Penang.

“We should do this by stages. Impose heavier penalty, then see the results. If this doesn’t work, then we go to the next step,” said Rohana, who was a founder member of Penang Women’s Crisis Centre (now Women’s Centre for Change).

Counselling important

Rohana, whose profiling of the rape perpetrator project under Universiti Institute Teknologi Mara, will be conducted in Seremban, Melaka and Johor next year, stressed that counselling was an important aspect of understanding why such heinous crimes occur so that solutions could be found to counter them.

“We do not only need religious counselling, we need psychologists and psychiatrists to go into prisons to counsel the perpetrators or else we’ll never know why they commit such crimes nor will we know how to deal with this problem,” she added.

Her response came in the wake of a statement made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Rais Yatim’s on Friday that the Cabinet was expected to accept a proposal calling for the death penalty for child rapist.

Rais, who is de facto law minister, said the ministry had received feedback from many quarters including the National Unity and Social Development ministry pressing for the death sentence for such offences.

Women and Family Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil also supported the stiffer penalty, which she said “was what the public wanted”.

But some public sectors, including women’s groups and the Bar Council have rejected the idea, saying that they maintained their stand against the death penalty.

Effective prosecution

In a joint press statement prepared by Women’s Aid Organisation and endorsed by 29 non-governmental organisations, the groups urged the government to reconsider the proposal and focus on ensuring effective prosecution that will result in conviction of perpetrators.

Sisters In Islam, Protect and Save the Children Association of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, Association of Registered Child Care Providers Malaysia, Malaysia Association of Kindergartens, Selangor and Federal Territory Association for Retarded Children are among the NGOs who opposed the move.

Bar Council president Mah Weng Kwai said the council will not support the move to impose the death penalty for statutory rape but will support other means of heavier penalty.

Mah said the penalty for statutory rape, where victims are below 16 years, should be stiffer and different from the penalty imposed on normal rapists as the offences were of different level.

Meanwhile, joining the fray of those who oppose the move, Gerakan Wanita chairperson Rhina Bhar urged the authorities not to be hasty in considering the death penalty.

Rhina said it would be more appropriate if the authorities consider increasing the limits of prison sentences and whipping.

Castration suggested

The current sentence in Section 376 of the Penal Code provides a jail term of not less than five years and not more than 20 years for rape perpetrators.

“It is appalling to note that in spite of courts meting out punishments time and again, young girls even toddlers, are raped,” she said in a press statement today.

“The current sentence could be amended to direct imprisonment with whipping and, or castration,” she added.

However, Rhina stressed that the punishment should apply to rapists in general as “rape is rape” whether it is committed against a toddler or a woman.

Friday, November 15, 2002

M'sia debates death sentence for child rapists

M'sia debates death sentence for child rapists

Nov 15, 02 03:01am

The cabinet is expected to accept a proposal calling for the death penalty for child rapists later this month, local media reported today.

"It is very likely that the proposal will be accepted," Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Rasi Yatim, was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

The cabinet is scheduled to discuss the planned legislation in two weeks time.

The death-sentence proposal comes amid public outrage over the rape and murder of a two-year-old girl in Kedah two weeks ago.

The body of two-year-old Siti Nurliyana Shamimi was found in a river 500 metres from her parents' house.

Widespread support

Rais said there was widespread support for the the death sentence for child rapists, which was also backed by the Women and Family Development Ministry.

"Even if the young girl doesn't die as a result of her physical injuries, it amounts to the same thing. As such the strong calls to impose the death sentence ... will almost certainly be acknowledged by the government," The Star quoted Rais as saying.

However, some women's groups here have criticised the proposal, saying a death sentence would not address the issue and would only deter victims from making a police report.

Under existing laws, convicted rapists face a jail term of not less than five years and not more than 20 years, and the offenders are also liable to be whipped.— AFP