Expert: Marriage rewards rapist, punishes victim

PETALING JAYA - A rapist-victim marriage legitimises rape by rewarding rapists and providing them with more opportunities for rape, says a criminology expert.

"The marriage does not benefit the victim in any way, and those who say the opposite are using cognitive distortions (or a biased way of thinking) to justify further victimisation," Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat told The Star Online.

She was responding to Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya's statements in Parliament on Tuesday that there is "nothing wrong" in rape victims marrying their rapists as this could be a remedy for social ills and give both parties a chance at a better life.

Photo: The Star/ANN

After a backlash from the public, civil advocates, and other MPs, including those from his own party, Shabudin claimed his statements were taken out of context by the media.

Dr Geshina, a lecturer with Universiti Sains Malaysia's Forensic Science programme, said marriage is a "poorly disguised attempt" by the victim's family, and the rapist and his or her family, to "save face."

The psychologist who also studied victimology said victims would not benefit in any way from marrying their rapists.

Just as importantly, marrying their rapists would only subject the victim to further physiological, psychological and sociological trauma.

"By allowing child victims of rape to marry their rapists, a very small percentage of cases are closed - not solved, but closed.

"The victims do not get justice," she said.

Read also: Malaysian MP: OK for rapists to marry victims, even 9-year-olds can marry

Dr Geshina also noted that more than 80 per cent of child rapists have direct familial ties or is known to the victim's family, so a marriage cannot be permitted in many of these cases anyway.

In his statement on Tuesday, Shabudin said that it was okay for underaged children who have reached puberty to get married with their parents' consent as some may be "physically and spiritually" ready.

He was arguing against a motion from Opposition MPs to include child marriages as an offence under the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017.

Dr Geshina disagreed with Shabudin, saying that physical maturity does not define mental, psychological or spiritual maturity.

"Puberty is part of the process of development and it does not mean fully developed," she said.

Read also: Malaysian MP says it's okay for rapists to marry child victims and sparks outrage

Dr Geshina said that paedophiles are not only attracted to the physical body of a child, but also the innocence and purity linked to the child's appearance and age.

However, once the child becomes an adult, the marriage often ends in divorce as the victim no longer has the physical traits that the rapist was previously attracted to.

This might lead the rapist to then committing the same crime on other children, possibly even their own children from this failed marriage.

In weighing the long-term "benefits" of a victim-rapist marriage, Dr Geshina argued that only the rapist would benefit from the marriage while the victim will continue to suffer in silence.

From a physiological perspective, the victim, particularly if a child, may not be mature enough to bear sexual intimacy or pregnancy, but the rapist would have no problems with sex and may grow sexually violent, she said.

Read also: Most rapes committed by people close to victims​

She added that as marriage appears to be rewarding the rapist and punishing the victim, it may cause the victim to feel even more victimised, depressed, and worthless, all of which may lead to suicidal thoughts.

And all this also encourages the rapist's predatory criminal behaviour, which may lead him to commit such an offence again.

Dr Geshina said physical and emotional abuse often becomes the norm in such a relationship, with the rapist using manipulation, intimidation and coercion to dominate the victim.

With victim-blaming or shaming an ongoing concern, the victim's relationship with her own family and with society as a whole would degrade as well, she said.

On child marriages being left out of the Sexual Offences against Children Bill, Dr Geshina said the minimum legal age of marriage for women should be raised from 16 to 18.

Read also: Rape is rape, marriage is not the solution, says Malaysia minister

"An adult rapist should not be allowed to marry his or her underaged victim if there is evidence of manipulation, false pretence, to evade the law, coercion, force, threat or intimidation by the rapist or someone else to make the child agree to the marriage," she said.

In 2013, a 40-year-old man avoided prosecution after he was allowed to marry the 13-year-old girl he had raped.

Shabudin, in his statement on Wednesday which claimed his remarks was taken out of context, asserted that marriage is not a "backdoor" to legitimise rape.

The Barisan Nasional lawmaker said there however have been cases of consensual sex between two minors classified as statutory rape where the families decided to marry off the underaged individuals.

Shabudin said that from the religious point of view, the offender could marry the victim either after or before his sentence without any restriction.

Read also: Malaysia MP under fire claims his words were taken out of context

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