KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — DAP’s Yeo Bee Yin, whose rape awareness campaign reignited debate over marital rape, today deemed it progress that Putrajaya is even discussing non-consensual sex in marriage despite deciding not to criminalise it.
The Damansara Utama assemblyman said, however, that Malaysia should at least increase the penalty for men who cause hurt in order to obtain sex from their wife from the current maximum imprisonment sentence of five years to 20 years, the same punishment for rape.
“I see it as a very healthy progress. At least they get to discuss it; last time they couldn’t discuss because it’s taboo,” Yeo told Malay Mail Online.
“Criminalising marital rape should be a very collective decision that suits society, not follow what Westerners do,” she added.
Some Muslims had criticised Yeo’s rape awareness campaign that addressed marital rape among others, saying forced sex does not exist in the context of Islamic marriage.
Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria also said last April that a Muslim woman has “no right” to reject her husband’s demand for sex, unless she is menstruating, sick or has just given birth.
De facto law minister Nancy Shukri said yesterday that the government will not amend Section 375 of the Penal Code to categorise non-consensual sex between husband and wife as rape.
She said Putrajaya, through the Parliamentary Select Committee on rape, had decided against criminalising marital rape on the basis that sex between a man and woman in a legitimate marriage cannot be considered rape.
With wife battery, another form of violence involving married couples, it took 11 years of campaigning by women’s groups in Malaysia before the Domestic Violence Act was implemented in 1996.