Brave New World (The Star)
22 August 2012
There are times we hail court decisions and there are times we find them bizarre. But if we ignore the incredible disparities in some court decisions, it is only at our own peril.
HOSLAN Hussein gets one year in jail for inaccurately chucking (he missed) his slippers at a judge. Noor Afizal Azizan gets a fine and zero jail time for raping a 13-year-old girl.
It boggles the mind. Hoslan’s sentence, in my view, was very harsh and over the top.
But even if one were to believe that the sanctity of the courts is so fragile that a punitively deterrent punishment is required for the flinging of footwear, it is impossible to ignore the incongruous disparity in the punishments meted out to these two men for crimes of such vastly different seriousness.
Much has been said about the judge’s unbelievable comment when sentencing Noor Afizal. Apparently being a national bowler with a bright future is enough to let you escape jail time for rape.
Actually, what is this “bright future” the judge is thinking about? The man is a child rapist; he confessed to it. He should not be allowed to represent the country in anything at all.
And in case you think there are mitigating issues in this case, namely that the sexual act was supposedly consensual, allow me to argue otherwise.
In this case, the girl was under the age of consent. This means the crime committed is statutory rape. The issue of consent does not even arise in such cases.
The reason for this is because we as a society have long ago determined that the young girls of our community deserve protection.
It does not matter in the slightest that children mature at different rates; what matters is that in general, this society believes that girls under the age of 16 are not yet ready to make decisions regarding their own sexual activity.
There are mental, psychological and also physiological elements to this need for protection.
The sexual act by itself could have implications for a child’s well-being, but a child from our society would surely be traumatised in the event that she got pregnant and had to face either childbirth or abortion.
Furthermore in immature bodies, the experience can also be seriously harmful physically.
I use the term “a child from our society” because I realise the age of consent will differ from nation to nation and culture to culture.
But in the case of statutory rape, there is no room for comparative anthropology. What matters is what we value for our girls.
I always believe that Malaysians care for our children. We want them to have a sound and safe childhood so that they can go to school and build a strong foundation for their future.
This is why we want to protect them for as long as possible, for it is this safety that helps to establish an environment where they can mature and flourish at a pace which we believe is healthy.
The judge in making his decision could not possibly have been thinking about this bigger picture. For if he had, he would have realised that his judgment was not only about Noor Afizan and the girl he violated, but also about all the girls in this country and our collective concern for them.
He has in effect dealt a blow to one of the few noble values that the people of this country universally accept — that our children should be cared for and be protected.
It was pointed out to me that Noor Afizal was NOT fined but the money he paid up was a surety. I regret this sloppy mistake but it does not detract from the main thesis that the judge made a decision which in my opinion was not appreciative as to WHY we have a Statutory Rape law in the first place.