PETALING JAYA - Sisters In Islam has reminded a PAS cleric that the religion does not allow for underage marriages, especially if the man is the rapist.
The non-governmental organisation said it "is a mockery to Islam to say that the solution to statutory rape lies within the religion, which is to marry off children at a young age."
"Islam does not allow for underage marriages, especially if it is to the perpetrator himself i.e the underage girl's rapist.
"Marriage in Islam is about love, compassion, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between husband and wife.
"How can there be love and compassion if there is an unfair balance of power between the spouses and a threat of sexual abuse in the marriage," said SIS in a statement in response to PAS ulama council's information chief Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali who suggested marriage as the best solution to the high number of statutory rape cases in Malaysia.
SIS said it was shocking that Khairuddin, who is Kuala Nerus MP, would undermine the severity and emotional trauma experienced by victims of underage rape cases.
It said Khairuddin's suggestion that underage rape cases were mostly cases of 'suka sama suka' (consensual) is both irresponsible and misleading.
"Rape can never be consensual even if an underage girl does not explicitly say no, thus the term 'statutory rape'," said the group.
According to Section 375 of the Penal Code, sexual act is defined as statutory rape when a victim under the age of 16 is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
SIS said that marriage between a man and an underage rape victim is seen as a way to "absolve a criminal act and the guilt of a perpetrator of rape", as in the case of a restaurant owner in Sabah, Riduan Masmud, who was granted by the Syariah court to marry his 12 year old rape victim.
"It is time we view rape as a crime that it actually is and a violation of human rights. Rape is a despicable act that is sinful in Islam and cannot be awarded with marriage," said SIS.
"As members of civil society, we hold the responsibility to acknowledge the severity of rape crimes, this including statutory rape, and take steps to help create a safer environment for women and girls.
"In addition, Malaysia, as a signatory to the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and Child Rights Convention has an obligation to ensure that underage girls get access to higher education and achieve her potential instead of focusing on marriage as a solution to statutory rape cases, especially if it is a marriage to the very criminal that has destroyed her life," said the group.
Bukit Aman recently revealed statistics concerning the breakdown of rape cases which showed that of the 1,794 cases reported this year, 920 of them were statutory rape.