On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Hudud is not the answer

Pas Vice President , Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (left) and Salahudin Ayub raising their hands at the 59th Muktamar at Stadium Melawati in Shah Alam.

Pas Vice President , Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (left) and Salahudin Ayub raising their hands at the 59th Muktamar at Stadium Melawati in Shah Alam.

PAS leaders should look at their backyard first before blaming the existing criminal laws for the spike in rape cases in the country.

THE highly publicised gang rape involving a 15-year-old schoolgirl by more than 10 men in the district of Ketereh near Kota Baru seems to have given PAS a reboot to push for hudud laws.

Its vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man has, reportedly, quickly said that the gang-rape case was proof that existing criminal laws were ineffective, and that hudud is the solution.

But if I were him, I wouldn’t be so quick to jump into this. He had better check his facts first because in PAS-controlled Kelantan, the number of rape cases is simply mind-boggling.

It has been reported that from January to February 2011 alone, of the 41 rape cases reported in the supposedly conservative state, 38 involved youths under the age of 17. This was an 8% increase from the 38 cases reported over the corresponding period the year before.

In fact, as far as rape cases are concerned, the state seems to have constantly held on to pole position against the other states. And this is despite the PAS’ leaders obsession with ensuring that the women in the state are dressed properly, so as not to entice the men into committing such horrendous deeds.

Unfortunately, the statistics show that the victims were mainly rural females, who were conservatively dressed. And what about the schoolchildren, who can hardly be accused of being sexually provocative?

There is, of course, the infamous statement made by former PAS Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nik Aziz Nik Mat that girls who did not cover their aurat (parts of body that should remain covered) deserved to get raped.

PAS leaders should look at their backyard first and explain why Kelantan has the highest number of reported rape cases in the country.

In 2010, there were 97 cases reported. In 2011, there was an interesting scenario where in the two weeks of the month of Ramadan alone, the number of rape cases in Kelantan involving victims aged between 13 and 15 was more than the reported rape cases in the first eight months of that year.

Another startling revelation is that Kelantan also had the highest number of HIV cases in the country for three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010.

In 2010, the number of Kelantanese diagnosed with HIV was 28.2 people for every 100,000 population. The national ratio is 12.9 people for every 100,000 population.

In 2009, a total of 616 HIV/AIDS cases were detected, of which 16% were women. Of the figure, 40% were housewives.

In 2010, Malaysians were shocked by news reports of the marriage of two girls, aged 10 and 11, to men in their 40s in Kelantan. Days later, the 11-year-old was found abandoned and in a state of shock.

All these figures seem to run contrary to claims by PAS leaders that all is well and fine in their puritanical state.

Tuan Ibrahim has argued that in the rape case involving the 15-year-old schoolgirl, the offenders cannot be prosecuted under hudud law because of several ambiguities in the case.

They include the absence of impartial witnesses and the fact that the victim had followed some of the men to the house.

The incident allegedly took place last week, where the female victim was lured to an empty house where she was ambushed and more than 10 men took turns to rape her. Now, if this doesn’t worry you, I don’t know what will.

There are some ill-informed non-Muslims who, consistent with their anti-government stance, argue that the chopping of hands is only for Muslims and not non-Muslims. Well, I have bad news for you. Think again. If your daughter gets raped by four Muslims, and they ask to be tried under syariah laws, you may wish to think again whether it affects you. And as Tuan Man said, there is a need to look for four men of good integrity. I am not sure where you are going to locate them.

Right now, under the common criminal law, even if one man is arrested, that is good enough to haul the rapist to court.

The laws of evidence will take its course.

Then, there are cases involving business transactions, where it may involve partners of different faith, and what happens if one chooses to have his case heard in the syariah courts?

Would it put the non-Muslim parties in a spot, similar to how some custody cases involving a converted husband and non-Muslim wife have turned out?

So, do not say that it would not affect you, non-Muslims, because this is what the PAS leaders want you to believe in the hope that you will send more of them to Parliament.

Give them enough numbers and you show you have endorsed their policies, thank you very much.

But Tuan Ibrahim said that although they may not be charged with rape under PAS hudud, they can still be prosecuted under takzir (discretion-based judgment), a component of the Islamic penal code for crimes where the punishments are not spelled out in the Quran.

Here’s a surprise for PAS leaders – the safest countries in the world are mostly in Europe and those in Asia include Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. There will be different forms of measurements and criteria but it’s always the same countries that pop out and none of these countries are imposing PAS-styled hudud laws.

I’d like to find out whether PAS leaders would prefer sending their children to live in Norway or Singapore, or to live in Pakistan, Syria or Afghanistan.

If PAS leaders continue to judge women with prejudices, instead of educating men and children to respect women, then that’s where the problem begins.

PAS leaders in Kelantan also have to look at the root causes of social ills in their backward state which includes high unemployment, lack of career opportunities and higher education prospects.