On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Myth to regard rape as crime of passion

Think hard. Nurulhuda was just a Year Four pupil who was
cycling to a grocery shop before she was raped, sodomised and left in a toilet
of a guardhouse near the village where she lived.

Another victim, nine-year-old schoolgirl Haserawati Saridi, too, was raped and
murdered while she was walking to school in Kampung Rantau near Menggatal in
Sabah on Jan 8.

In Terengganu, an eight-year-old girl was raped by a man in some bushes while
she was on her way to buy groceries in Besut on Jan 13. A villager found the
victim crying by the roadside.

All three victims certainly did not wear revealing or seductive clothing that
provoked rape. Certainly, they were not flirtatious or had behaviour with men
that could be regarded as open invitations for sex.

They were just innocent kids. All these recent cases took place in the rural
heartland. These three horrible crimes took place in villages where the moral
fibre is still regarded as strong.

If we listen to our self-appointed guardians of morality, they would simply
point their fingers at women as the contributing factor for increasing rapes,
besides moral decadence and Western influences.

The excesses in our cities, as some of our simplistic and ignorant politicians
would like us to believe, is the cause of the increasing sex crimes. So, we hear
calls to ban concerts by provocatively dressed singers and proposals to impose
dress codes.

Such arguments, however, do nothing to prevent rapes but only serve to further
victimise rape victims. Women, in some cases, have been held responsible for
the sexual behaviour of these rapists.

It's a case of the padan muka (they asked for it) attitude and so, the weirdos
who get sexually aroused by looking at a woman's armpit or her hairdo, are
spared the blame.

There is also this myth that women only get raped after they readily accept
drinks or rides from total strangers at nightspots or shopping complexes. I am
not saying that rapes don't happen after such careless liaisons but research
has shown that even in our neighbourhoods, no one is spared.

For that matter, the villages have continued to be in the news for sex crimes.
In 2002, Felda settlers found themselves in the news for rape and incest rather
than their agricultural abilities.

Settler Shari Mohd Shariff, 41, was sentenced to 12 years' jail and 12 strokes
of the rotan after he pleaded guilty to two counts of raping his 12-year-old
daughter at their Felda Serting Tiga, Air Hitam, home.

We will never be able to ascertain the causes of sex crimes in rural areas
where the religious foundation is said to be strong.

In 2001, police reported that crime rates shot up in Terengganu, which saw a
30.8% rise, and in Kelantan, which had a 12.3% jump, despite the imposition of
moral rules and hudud laws by the leaders of the two states.

Between 2000 and 2003, Selangor registered the highest number of reported rape
cases at 216, followed by states with strong rural bases such as Johor (194),
Kedah (110), Sabah (109), Perak (91) and Sarawak (81). Kuala Lumpur, for all
its so-called avenues of vice, had 67 cases against Kelantan's 52 and
Terengganu's 48.

The cynics among some of us would say that the sometimes-repressive environment
in rural areas might have worsened things. Pent-up frustrations, one might

Interestingly, research by the Consumers Association of Penang between 1985 and
1988 showed that for pre-puberty girls, their attackers included their
neighbours and schoolmates. Certainly not total strangers.

But the most important point is that these pre-puberty victims were too young
to be in any position to secure the attention of their male attackers. They
were just minding their own business when they were accosted.

The two youngest victims in the study, published as a book titled Rape in
Malaysia, were five-year-olds. The most brutal case was in 1987 and the victim
was nine-year-old Ang May Hong, who was raped and murdered on her way to buy
breakfast one morning. Her father found her body three hours later in an empty
house not far from her Jalan Ipoh house in Kuala Lumpur.

In the same year, seven-year-old Chong Ser Ling was sleeping beside her mother
one night when she was abducted and raped in an adjoining house. She died on
her way to hospital – the rapist was a childhood friend of Ser Ling's

All the laws and penalties in Malaysia would not make any difference if
Malaysian men, including some of our politicians, regard women as mere sexual
objects or playthings for men.

We must emphasise the point that there seems to be a perception that only
"certain" women are likely to be raped. The fact is that pre-puberty girls and
even grandmothers have been raped in Malaysia.

Our lawmakers can also look at countries such as Australia, Canada, Britain and
New Zealand which have revised their rape laws and the handling of such

Then, there is the aspect of making it easier for rape victims, who are in
emotional and psychological shock, to lodge reports against their attackers at
police stations or hospitals.

But all the promises and pledges of our leaders should not end even if the
media no longer put rape news on the front pages. Just remember – such sexual
assaults can happen to our daughters, sisters or mothers when they are out on
the streets today.