Making people disappearPosted: November 2, 2008
This is an article from The Nut Graph, in light of the Penan rape cases. I reproduce some excerpts:
It is now 2008. Malaysia has gone through long-delayed amendments to laws related to rape in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. We had an election during which the Women’s Candidacy Initiative actively campaigned against Members of Parliament (MPs) who made derogatory remarks against women in Parliament. And yet I still burn with anger and pain when I read responses by the authorities to allegations of sexual assault committed against Penan women and girls.
The Police Commissioner insisted that a police report had to be made, despite provisions in the Child Act 2001 that empowers the police to take proactive action upon suspicions of child sexual abuse. A disproportionate number of the victims, it should be recalled, were girls below the age of 18.
Datuk Patinggi Alfred Jabu Numpang, a deputy chief minister, initially rubbished the allegations, only to seemingly experience a change of heart: Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen claimed to have received a letter from him strongly recommending a thorough investigation by the police. However, Jabu then proceeded to tick off a Sarawakian blogger who was calling for essentially the same action.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri George Chan, in stressing the need for “very firm evidence”, said it was because it could portray a very bad national image.
Unbelievable. One would think that when faced with reports of systematic rapes committed over a decade-long period, the human reaction would be one of sympathy and anger at the pain so many women must have gone through. But no. We might as well be living in an era when violence against women, especially domestic violence, was seen not as a crime but a private matter.
We live in an environment rife with apathy and a culture of impunity towards violence against women. Sections of the population still view these violations of women’s human rights as unimportant. Or, at best, they are seen as shameful incidents to be covered up to preserve the family honour.
And the culture of victim blaming is not the only deterrent to women seeking reparations for the violations they have suffered. Well-known abuses of power by those tasked to protect us all should also give women pause. Recently a column in Malaysiakini highlighted two rape cases where the accused rapists were police officers.
For we live in a society where equality in every sense is still seen as a dirty word, and where fighting for justice often means a woman has to play a victim-martyr. And this takes us ever further from the principle that a person has rights simply by virtue of being human.
The struggle for all of us is to see that we are part of this battle. The struggle is to act upon this knowledge, and to never, ever let those in power forget that these numbers are human.
Read the whole article HERE.
What is even sadder, I think, is the fact that in Malaysia, those who are fighting for women’s rights, and fighting against violence against women and children, are women themselves. No, I’m not saying that all men are bad. I’m just saying that there are simply not enough men out there who are willing to go that extra mile, that extra step, to help protect the rights of women and children.
And sometimes, though it’s sad to admit, women are their own worst enemies. We fear the ‘shame’ that we may bring to the family should we tell of such crimes that have been committed towards our bodies. We fear the taunting that will ensue. Some of us believe that this is what we deserve, though we have done nothing wrong, except be born female.
We tell ourselves to endure abuse for the sake of our family and children, when we don’t realise that it is actually breaking the family apart. We tell ourselves to keep rape a secret for fear that our husbands will no longer bear to touch our ‘dirty’ bodies. We make ourselves disappear.
It’s about time we stopped doing that.