Saturday September 1, 2012
No need for review on statutory rape law
By SHARON LING
KUCHING: There is no need to review the law on statutory rape because consent is taken into consideration when meting out punishment for the offence.
Ann Teo, who is the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) vice-president, said prominent criminal lawyer Baljit Singh Sidhu had pointed out that the Penal Code was revised in 2006 to state that “consent is a factor to determine the punishment for statutory rape”.
Baljit was reported by an online news portal as saying that under Section 376 of the Penal Code, the minimum sentence if the victim is below 12 years old is five years’ jail and/or whipping, whether or not the victim consented to the act.
However, no minimum sentence is provided if a victim is above 12 years and below 16 and had given consent.
”I don’t see the need to review the law since the Penal Code has already been revised,” Teo told The Star.
She was commenting on the call by Assistant Youth Development Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for the law to be reviewed because many cases of statutory rape involved consent from the victims.
Abdul Karim had said that children matured at a younger age and that it was unfair to “crucify” the boy for statutory rape if the victim was a willing partner.
On this, Teo said the age gap between the offender and victim should be taken into conside- ration.
”If both are teenagers, the future of the boy is also important. But the court has to balance public interest as opposed to the rights of the accused person,” she said, adding that it was also important to consider the factor of exploitation of young girls in such cases.
She also said the courts must mete out appropriate sentences in accordance with the provision of the law.
”For ‘ordinary’ rape, the Penal Code stipulates imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years.
“For ‘aggravated’ rape, such as the victim being 12 years old or younger with or without consent, below 16 without consent, causing hurt when committing the offence or putting her in fear of death, it is a minimal sentence of a five-year imprisonment and not more than 30 years,” she said.
She added that the courts must bear in mind that the provisions of the law were there to provide protection for female children as well as protection from child prostitution and child marriages.