Should Religion Be Used To Justify Sexual Crimes?

Is there really an excuse for brutally raping or harassing another human being?

Cover image via Female Report

A study by the Home Ministry in April 2015, revealed that every 35 minutes, a woman is being raped in Malaysia.

The world is constantly up in arms about the atrocities of sexual crimes, and Malaysian activists are no different.

Image via First Post

Additionally, statistics from the Home Ministry also indicated that from 2005 to July 2014, out of the 28,471 rape cases that were reported, only 4,514 (16%) were brought to court with merely 756 (2.7%) perpetrators found guilty.

“There are 3,000 rape cases reported every year on average in Malaysia with only two out of 10 cases going to court. This implies that there is one female being raped every 35 minutes,” said Damansara Utama ADUN Yeo Bee Yin.

Delving into sex crimes, at the 'Gila Sex, Gila Kuasa... Siapa Jadi Mangsa' forum that was held yesterday, Young Women Making Change (YWMC)'s Syar S. Alia, spoke about how sexual offenders conveniently use religion to justify their heinous sexual crimes

"There are cases where perpetrators used religion, for the very reason to say that religion or God’s word is on their side.

"And that is also another way of them having power over their victims, because (if you say) God is on your side, you will feel more powerful than the person you are trying to shame."

"It is being used (and) interpreted to suit them,” she told The Malaysian Insider after speaking at a forum on sexual harassment, "Gila Seks, Gila Kuasa, Siapa Jadi Mangsa" by Projek Dialog in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Formed in August 2014, YWMC aims to raise awareness and increase dialogue on the sexual harassment issue experienced by young women at all levels of society in the country.

"Religion is being used as a political tool and a social tool to exert control to say that what I do is correct... and this goes back to the idea of right and wrong," added Syar

She said the perpetrators usually thought that their interpretation of religion was more accurate than others, and were judgmental towards people, especially their victims, and how they practised their beliefs.

This, Syar said, was based on YWMC's works on the issue, its cooperation with other NGOs, and research and anecdotes she received from feedback.

Contrary to popular belief, people are not exactly opposed to the idea of sexual crimes.

Syar talks about how the ugly truth comes down to the fact that there are still people that subscribe to the belief that, anyone that does not comply to the rules of a particular religion, deserves to be sexually violated.

Earlier, Syar gave an example of how people on social media dehumanised the whole issue of sexual harassment when YWMC released a series of posters about sexual harassment on Facebook.

There was one day that we focus on sexual harassment experienced by transgender people and our message is that sexual harassment is not okay and everybody deserves to be respected and feels safe.

“But some commenters say they (victims) are transgender people and it is wrong according to religion and morals, so they deserve to be sexually harassed.

"There is one woman who said sexual harassment is one of the many ways to tell people that they are doing something wrong or dressing the wrong way,” she said.

Vee Izhar, from Justice for Sisters, highlighted the plight of transgender people that are constantly being sexually harrassed and viewed as sex objects

Vee Izhar, Justice for Sisters

Image via The Malaysian Insider

“When we reject them, of course we will receive backlash and they will use religion (to counter)."

Justice for Sisters comprises of a group of people standing up against all forms of injustice and violence against transgender women.

On 16 June, a private birthday party was raided by the Kelantan Islamic Department (JHEAIK), during which they arrested nine innocent transgender women for cross-dressing

Malaysia has very strict laws against cross-dressing, especially for men

Image via Al Jazeera

In Kelantan, section 7 of the Syariah (Sharia) Criminal Code of 1985 states that “Any male person who, in any public place, wears woman attire and poses as a woman shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months or to both.”

Malaysian transgender rights activists say that the cross-dressing laws not only violate the constitution, but contribute to widespread discrimination and violence against transgender people.

“Laws against ‘a male person posing as a woman’ not only deny transgender women in Malaysia our fundamental rights as citizens of the country, they also contribute to a hostile environment,” said Nisha Ayub, a transgender activist with the rights group Justice for Sisters.

With harsh religious laws to comply to, the Syaria court convicted the nine transgender women and slapped them with fines and jail sentences, following the abrupt arrests

News about injustice against the transgender community is becoming so common in Malaysia, it is both sickening and worrying.

They are most often sexually harassed and when they turn to the very authorities that are supposed to protect and keep them save, they are reportedly forced to conduct lewd sexual acts for those officers.

Regardless of the stereotypes thrown at the transgender community, they are still no different from the rest of us and these eight people have proved exactly that:

Children subjected to cruel sexual crimes: Pedophilia, incest and rapes

8-year-old Nurin Jazlin was brutally raped and murdered back in 2007

Image via Seventh-Angel

While we are on the subject of sexual crimes in Malaysia, it is impossible to skirt around the issues of statutory rapes, incest and pedophilia that happen all too common but go unreported mostly

While the country was celebrating Christmas on Dec 25, 2006, tree cutter K. Kamalason, 47, raped a five-year-old child in a Chinese graveyard in Kuantan. He inflicted his young victim with extremely serious internal injuries to her uterus, intestines and private parts.

Kamalason is married with two children ages two and six and was sentenced 20 years in jail and 20 strokes of the rotan.

As a stepfather, Zulkarnain Ramle, 40, of Kampung Sourabaya Hulu, Petra Jaya in Sarawak should have protected and cared for his stepchildren. Instead, Zulkarnain raped his 11-year-old stepdaughter three years ago when both her mother and elder sister were not at home.

The child told her mother, who lodged a police report and her daughter taken for a medical examination. Zulkarnain was sentenced to 12 years in jail on Nov 3, 2003.

In 2007, a young, 16-year-old secondary school girl, gave birth to a stillborn baby, that was fathered by her 42-year-old stepfather, in Taiping

Another horror story surfaced in 2012, when a 20-year-old girl from Melaka, finally mustered the courage to lodge police report against her father, who sexually abused her when she was 12 years old:

The woman, now aged 20, claimed that her father also locked her up in a room when she was in Year Six and sexually abused her.

She was only given food during those few days and was not allowed to attend school.

The abuse purportedly lasted for five years, beginning when she was in Year Five until she ran away from home.

She also claimed in her Jan. 11 report that there had been occasions when her father tied her to the bed and also inserted objects into her private parts.

The heartbreaking fact is that, most of these children are abused and violated by the people that they trust the most

In many of these cases, rapes were carried out not by strangers, but by people close to the victims. The perpetrators were people who were supposed to be protectors of the victims, fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles, and even mothers. Most go unreported until a pregnancy occurs.

The majority of perpetrators of these crimes came from low socio-economic rural environments, many from FELDA areas, were relatively uneducated, and earning below average wages. 66% of the perpetrators were Malays, 82% were over 50 years old, while the victims were under 16 years old.

The perpetrators would claim that sex was their right from a daughter and the acts were consensual. They claimed that the victim was manja (affectionate), and the act occurred because of ‘suka sama suka’ (consent), even though she was a child. Some claimed the children were temptresses and ‘right for the plucking’.

Excuses, no matter how petty, are always made by rapists, with the most common one about how the attire of the woman or child they violated provoked them, and all the way to using their respective religious rites to justify rape

Many perpetrators had a proprietary attitude of ownership over their children according to Universiti Sains researcher Dr Rohana Ariffin, and Rachel Samuel of UiTM Melaka.

They used persuasion, coercion, manipulation, the power of their relationship, and religious dogma to have sex with their victims. Some believe that the Qu’ran allows them ownership over their daughters and claimed they are rightfully their sex slaves according to Islam.

The perpetrators didn’t see sex with their daughters, granddaughters, or nieces as rape, because no violence was used. Boyfriends blamed the girl’s parents, stating that the parents didn’t like him. Others blamed pornography and uncontrolled lust.

A prison department director-general Zaman Khan once asked why a father raped his own daughter, reported that the man replied:

“As a father, I had planted the seed before my child was born. Thus I am rightfully the person to taste the fruit before anybody else.”

Supporting the rapists, certain members of the society are making statements about sexual crimes that seem like they condone rape

One group in particular, Hizbut Tahrir Malaysia (HTM), when interviewed at their headquarters on Sunday, asserted that “your body is to be used by your husband… when you marry a woman, there is no need to get consent, no need at all”.

HTM spokesperson, Ustaz Abdul Hakim Othman, also stated at a hudud seminar in Bangi recently that “most sexual cases involve false accusations”.

A Malaysian group condemned the uniform worn by girls at government schools, saying it encouraged rape and pre-marital sex.

“The white blouse is too transparent for girls and it becomes a source of attraction,” National Islamic Students Association of Malaysia vice-president Munirah Bahari said in a statement.

“This is the source of the problem, where we can see that schoolgirls themselves are capable of using this to attract men to them,” Munirah said.

“This could see them getting molested, having premarital sex and all sorts of things.”

With groups like Young Women Making Change, Justice For Sisters, and Women's Aid Organisation, stepping up to put an end to rape and assisting the victims, more people are finding it in them to stand up against all forms of sexual violence

'Members of All Women's Action Society (AWAM), a Malaysia non-government organisation, hold placards during a peaceful public protest titled 'Citizens Against Rape Walk', demanding better protection for women and girls against sexual violence, on June 7, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.'

Image via Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images

While we focus on destroying rape culture, these people are all too eager to put the blame on the victims:

Meanwhile, the government thinks marital rape is completely fine:

Also, read about how a police officer threatened to rape a young girl after arresting her over the anti-GST rally earlier this year:

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