Platitudes on the rights and protection of children carry on, but in the end what we really need is concrete action which will make child rights and protections found in conventions and laws a reality, says Prema Devaraj.
Recently a 35-year-old man pleaded guilty in a Seremban Sessions Court to raping his 11-year-old sister-in-law.
It was reported that during the rape, this man made his 14-year-old wife, who has a learning difficulty, capture the sexual acts on a video camera. He then allegedly copied these recording into VCDs and sold these to his friends.
The matter came to light when the father of the victim somehow saw a copy of the recording via Whatsapp, and confronted his 11-year-old daughter. She then told him about being raped several times by her brother-in-law. A police report was lodged, and the man was subsequently arrested and charged, and he pleaded guilty to raping the 11-year-old. But this is hardly the end of it for there are a number of issues which are of concern and need to be addressed.
In this particular case, the 14-year-old, a child bride, was allegedly raped by this man prior to their marriage.
Her situation was made worse by her husband forcing her to witness and record the rape of her younger sister.
Given the country’s apparent commitment to ending child marriages, what steps are being taken to stop this practice and its damaging impact on children? Who ensures the best interests of the child in child marriages or is the practice simply to wash our hands of the matter once a wedding takes place? Are parents, child protectors and the authorities, who continue to sanction child marriages, monitoring the wellbeing of child brides?
And what of her 11-year-old sister who was also raped? Apart from ensuring that she gets the correct support and counselling for the trauma experienced, what of the other crimes committed upon her? What steps are being taken to stop the circulation of the recording of her rape via VCD and Whatsapp? Are the authorities thinking of how to protect this rape victim’s identity and privacy, as stipulated under the Child Act 2001?
The fact that some people purchased the VCD of the sexual assault and others shared the video clip via Whatsapp without lodging a report indicates the condoning of child rape by certain members of society. How many people clicked to “share” the rape recording? Are we so desensitised to violence, gawking at the crime as titillation, perhaps even encouraging others to do the same.
While the fight to end child rape is a tough one, as a nation we must stop sacrificing our children in this manner. Platitudes on the rights and protection of children carry on ad nauseum, but in the end what we really need is concrete action which will make child rights and protections found in conventions and laws a reality.
Political will, a decent budget for resources and the courage to implement principles are starting points.
Prema Devaraj is a Programme Consultant at the Women’s Centre for Change.