Girl withdrawn after rape acquittal

Girl withdrawn after rape acquittal
Fatimah Abdullah embracing the girl who visited the minister’s office in Kuching to appeal for justice.

KUCHING - The teenage girl, whom Bunya Jalong was acquitted of raping, has grown withdrawn following the ruling by the Court of Appeal. The girl, now believed to be 18 or 19 years old, has not spoken publicly about the court decision.

"I can sense that she has built a wall around herself," Sarawak's Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah told reporters.

Asked what the family had told her, Fatimah said: "They expressed anger, dissatisfaction. They don't understand why this man was acquitted when the evidence showed that the child has his DNA.

"Consent is immaterial. She was a minor (at the time), incapable of making informed decisions."

The girl and her family are in the state capital this week to seek help from the authorities, having met, besides Fatimah, the Sarawak Women and Family Council.

Bunya was accused of raping the girl in May, June, July and August 2011 at a hotel in Sibu. The girl gave birth at the Sibu Hospital on Feb 5, 2012, with a DNA test confirming Bunya to be the baby boy's biological father.

Last week, the Court of Appeal, which sat in Kuching, unanimously acquitted and discharged Bunya, reasoning that it was unsafe to convict him of the charges.

Fatimah said the girl would be given counselling, adding that the state ministry would write a letter to support her wish for the case to be reviewed.

She urged Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim, both Sarawakians, to speak out in a united voice.

"The Penal Code, in reference to Section 375, needs to be amended to give the courts a more liberal interpretation of the definition of rape when the victim is a child," Fatimah said, adding a similar protection was already in place in Britain, France and the Philippines.

"We urge the amendment to include boys of tender age," she said.

In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said its legal experts had been directed to study and produce a detailed report on the case.

"We need to study and amend existing laws for sexual crimes as well as related laws because there are many loopholes that allow a rape suspect to be acquitted," he told reporters.

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