Using religion to protect sexual predators unjustifiable: Azalina

The Vibes [Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia]

September 10, 2022

Protecting the reputation of sexual predators by using religion to instil fear, shame and obligation against victims, is against every rule of law protecting children in this country, said Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said. 

The Pengerang MP said this in calling for better protection of minors who become victims of sexual crimes while urging all quarters not to sweep the issue under the carpet. 

This follows a recent remark by Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Idris Ahmad reminding a 15-year-old child actress not to expose her father’s “aib” (indiscretions) after she alleged multiple sexual abuse instances. 

Azalina said she agreed with a statement by the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality yesterday raising concerns regarding the act of silencing victims. 

“What now of our newly passed Anti-Sexual Harassment Act or the Child Act or the Sexual Offences Against Children Act? What kind of messaging and precedent are we setting?” she questioned in a statement today. 

The Umno lawmaker said no amount of “reputation laundering” can erase the trauma experienced by victims of sexual violence or harassment, nor the consequence of being branded a liar when opening up on such cases. 

“If patriarchy persists at the highest level, compounded with toxic masculine values, what hope do we have for victims of sexual crimes, especially vulnerable children? The system is failing them.” 

In a podcast session last Saturday, the teenage celebrity revealed that she and her mother had been mentally, physically and sexually abused by her manipulative father several years ago. 

This includes being forced to watch pornographic videos with him and his friends when she was just five, coerced into witnessing him masturbate, and being touched inappropriately. 

Idris later said that it was not wise of the teenager to expose her father’s bad deeds in public, and that she should have resorted to using proper channels by filing a police report directly. 

The victim’s father, meanwhile, was arrested on Wednesday at his home in Kedah, and will be remanded until Monday to facilitate investigations. 

Azalina, who chairs the Parliamentary Special Select Committee for Women, Children and Social Development, said children do not lie about sexual abuse cases, and that even if they do, it is the court’s responsibility to determine that. 

She also noted that the resources invested in existing platforms provided for child sexual assault victims remain inadequate to this date. 

Among the platforms include the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect teams, the One-Stop Crises Centres, Bukit Aman’s Sexual, Children and Women Investigation Division, Child Interview Centres and the special courts for sexual crimes against children. 

“There is no point in having laws without proper enforcement and support systems in place,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Azalina revealed that the cabinet has yet to provide its feedback on the proposed roadmap tabled in July by the parliamentary select committee she heads.

One of the committee’s key recommendations is to allow children to have better access to support and assistance throughout the criminal justice process. 

“Perhaps, the best for our children on World Children’s Day on November 20 would be the government’s commitment to adopt this suggested roadmap.”