Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar offered up some inflammatory words in parliament last week, claiming that non-Malays are okay with statutory rape. The claim came after statistics showed that most of the people who lodged statutory rape charges in Malaysia are from the Malay community.
In 2012 1,243 Malays reported statutory rape, most of them being teenage girls. In contrast, only 73 Chinese and 45 Indians made a similar report. Malays make up over half of the population, with Chinese making up about a quarter of the population, while Indians make up less than 10%, so discrepancies should be expected.
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Regardless, the massive gulf between the reported numbers can’t be explained solely on population size, so Mr. Jaafar offered another explanation. In his view, statutory rape simply offends Malay senses more so than members of the Chinese or Indian community. As such, Malays are more likely to report the crimes.
Unsurprisingly, these numbers are drawing the ire of human and women’s rights activities, as well as members of the opposition. The comments have also added fuel to the growing tensions between the Malay, Chinese, and Indian communities.
Rape A Major Issue In Malaysia
Rape has become a major issue in Malaysia. Besides the roughly 1,400 statutory rape cases reported each year, there are numerous other forced rape, sexual assault, and other cases. Perhaps the biggest challenge in bringing down incidents of rape is the lack of law enforcement and legal prosecution.
In 2009, for example, 3,000 complaints were lodged, but only 162 resulted in convictions. People engaging in such activities all but know that even if they commit a crime, they’ll most likley be able to get away with it.
Interestingly, when these numbers were pointed out to Mr. Jaafar he defended law enforcement practices, and instead blamed it on low social values. He then argued that people needed to stop pointing fingers at one another.
Another complicated issue is that in Malaysia rape is narrowly defined as penetration of the penis into the vagina. This narrow definition makes it more difficult to prosecute other sexual crimes.
Racial Tensions Rising
During the 2013 national election the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition suffered another series of setbacks, losing the popular vote, and watched its control over the country slowly erode. The long ruling Malay dominated coalition has been steadily losing ground to an opposition coalition consisting of Chinese, Indian, and urban Malays.
As the opposition coalition itself largely relies on the power and cohesion of the Chinese community, racial tensions are starting to rise to levels unseen since the 1960’s. The ruling coalition has begun to target the Chinese community, and many politicians from said coalition are inflaming tensions with derogatory remarks.
If Malay politicians continue to make such comments it may only be a matter of time before tensions flare up into violence.