Azalina joins coalition in lambasting religious minister's victim-blaming remarks against sexual abuse survivor

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 — Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today she supports the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality's (JAG) castigation of Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Idris Ahmad for his victim-blaming and silencing of a child survivor of sexual abuse.

Without naming the religious minister, Azalina questioned the precedent Idris would be setting by silencing and downplaying the child victim's allegations, especially with several Acts already in place that were designed to help and protect victims of sexual abuse.

"JAG raised similar concerns regarding the act of silencing victims of sexual crimes. 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? Using religion especially to create fear, shame, and obligation to protect the reputation of a sexual predator is against every rule of protective laws for children in this country," she said in a statement today.

The former law minister then said that Idris' remarks proved that the system is failing to protect vulnerable children, adding that no amount of reputation laundering can erase the trauma experienced by any victim, especially a child.

"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," she said.

Azalina also shared that there any many avenues for victims of sexual abuse to obtain justice for the crimes committed against them, but shared that the resources allocated to these avenues are not enough.

"When it comes to children, it is a different playing field. There is no point in having laws without proper enforcement and support systems in place.

"We have the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) teams, One-Stop Crises Centres (OSCC), D11 (Sexual, Children and Women Investigation) Division, Child Interview Centres, and Special Courts for sexual crimes against Children in the country, but the resources invested in these platforms remain inadequate," she said.

She also pointed out that the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Women, Children and Social Development had tabled a Roadmap called Strengthening Support for Child Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System 2022-2027 in July 2022, but have yet to receive any feedback from Putrajaya.

According to Azalina, the roadmap recommends allowing children to have better access to support and assistance throughout the criminal justice process, among other things.

"The strategy includes a new model for the management and delivery of comprehensive Witness Support Services (WSS) for children, which is to upgrade the existing One-Stop Crises Centre to a full fledge WSS that provides medical, psycho-social, legal and space to collect video recording for oral evidence from witness of sexual crimes.

"This is based on the 'Barnahous' model which is globally recognised as an evidence-based approach to a child-friendly, multi-disciplinary and integrated service model for children who are victims of sexual violence," she said.

She added that with World Children's Day coming on November 20, the best gift the government can give to children would be by giving its commitment to adopt this roadmap.

Yesterday, the JAG condemned the victim-blaming and silencing by Idris, after a child survivor spoke up about the abuse she endured at the hands of her father on a YouTube podcast.

JAG in a statement today said Idris' response as a minister was in violation with the country's Child Act 2001 and Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017 (SOACA) 2017 to protect children.

Idris on September 6 said that instead of exposing the matter and reporting the abuse to the police, she should have protected her father from humiliation instead.

Idris' statement also drew the ire of several other MPs and NGOs, with Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto criticising the minister's remarks, saying those in ministerial positions should not make statements that would demoralise the victim and downplay the issue.

Women’s Aid Organisation senior advocacy officer Kiran Kaur chimed in, saying that the minister’s statement would perpetuate stigmas around sexual abuse incidents.

Deputy minister for women, family, and community development Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff has confirmed that the victim and her mother had made a police report on the incident.