KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — A civil rights group today accused Selangor’s Islamic Religious Department (Jais) of attempting to justify rape in its sermon last week by blaming women for failing to cover their “aurat”.
In a statement here, EMPOWER said the Islamic authority was merely perpetuating old rape myths, which it said holds no water as even women who dress decently have become victims of rape.
“The Friday sermon was not only appalling, it was a wasted opportunity to educate the public on the realities of rape and how we can support rape victims instead of shaming them,” the non-governmental organisation said.
“Instead, the message it gives to rapists and potential rapists is that they can wash their hands clean of any personal responsibility over their actions, as long as they can justify in their minds that the victims are ‘asking for it’,” the group added.
In its sermon last week, Jais claimed the covering up of the “aurat” would prevent women from being harassed physically and mentally, in addition to reducing social ills such as rape, illicit sex and incest.
But EMPOWER pointed out today that rapists have in the past included fathers or other close relatives of victims, and that a large proportion of rape victims are children under 16 years, including little boys.
“How would covering up protect women and girls in this situation?” EMPOWER asked.
“The harsh reality is that there is nothing women – or men, for that matter – can wear that will protect them from rape. Women who wear headscarves are raped, such as the late Noor Suzaily Mokhtar. Young girls in modest clothing are raped, such as the late Ang May Hong, Hasirawati Saridi, Nurul Huda Abdul Gani, and Nurin Jazlin Jazimin.”
EMPOWER advised Jais to focus on rapists instead and to work with women’s groups to promote respect and integrity in schools.
“Aurat” in Malay refers to “intimate body parts” that Muslims must cover with clothing; exposing these is considered by some to be sinful.
EMPOWER is an NGO that describes itself as advancing justice and democracy, based on feminist and human rights principles.