KUALA LUMPUR: The suggestion that convicted child rapists be sent to the gallows has sparked an active debate as yet another case of sexual abuse of a child emerged yesterday.
There was mixed response from both sides of the political divide on the suggestion, with Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil saying that capital punishment alone was not sufficient deterrent for child rapists.
While she supported the death penalty for child rapists, she said it was more important to focus on the social and moral environment which produced such criminals.
“We need to refine our community values and prepare measures to protect the vulnerable in society, especially children.” Shahrizat said a thorough study was required to ascertain the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent. She said the issue was complicated by the fact that the majority of child rape cases were committed by family members, fathers, uncles and brothers.
“In such cases, victims might discouraged from reporting instances violence, particularly if they know they be responsible for the death of member.” She said the imposition of the penalty might even worsen the situation as a rapist might be more inclined to kill his victim.
Shahrizat said an alternative would be a lengthy jail sentence for child rapists.
Sarawak Women and Family Council chairman Datin Fatimah Abdullah said the death penalty would be a powerful deterrent against “heinous crimes”. But she echoed Shahrizat’s sentiments in saying more should be done to counter the problem.
“The death penalty will not make up for the intense trauma suffered by rape victims,” said Fatimah, who is also minister in the Chief Minister’s Office.
The maximum jail sentence for rape under the Penal Code was extended from 20 to 30 years in 2007.
The call for capital punishment was made by DAP chairman Karpal Singh who called for an amendment to Section 376 of the Penal Code on rape to include the death penalty as the mandatory sentence for child rapists.
Ironically, two of his detractors on the issue were from his own party.
Bukit Mertajam DAP member of parliament Chong Eng said the death penalty would not change the situation as rape was difficult to prove while Beruas DAP MP Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham said the death penalty should be reserved for the most violent crimes.
Chong Eng cited a study by the Penang-based non-governmental organisation, Women’s Centre for Change, which revealed that only four per cent of reported rape cases were successfully prosecuted with the rest dismissed due to lack of evidence.
The Wanita DAP chief said prevention was the key to the issue of child rape, adding that parents and school authorities should discuss matters relating to sex openly with children.
“Many children are unaware of what kinds of behaviour or touching of body parts are inappropriate, leading to many cases being underreported.”
She said there was a need to speed up court processes as lengthy prosecutions discouraged many victims from speaking up about their ordeal.
“These cases should be prioritised as they involve children, who may not be emotionally developed enough to handle long trials,” she said, adding that child victims of rape should be provided counselling.
Ngeh said the death penalty should only be meted out if the rapist was also guilty of committing extreme violence.
The Perak DAP chairman said child rapists should also receive psychiatric treatment to control their psychological and physical urges.
“Uncontrollable sexual urges or sex addiction can be reversed through treatment.”
p/s: Death penalty for rapist won't solve the problem...agree with Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil. Give public canning is most suitable.....