Rohani Karim’s comment that the “girl who married rapist is fine” also failed to convey the victims’s aspiration to turn her life around
A girl who was raped by a father of four meets Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Karim and shares her desire of becoming independent and not wallow in self-pity.
So when Rohani returned and informed the Dewan Rakyat that the girl is “fine”, it was simply gobsmacking.
How and why the minister failed to grasp the girl’s empowering message is puzzling.
Rohani told the Dewan Rakyat that the 12-year-old girl who married the man convicted of raping her in Sabah is doing fine. The girl currently lives with her parents in Kota Kinabalu.
She said the girl, now 16, is still married to Riduan Masmud, 44, who is serving his 12-year jail term after being convicted of raping her in 2015.
Riduan, a father of four children aged between two and 17 at the time of the offence, was charged with raping the schoolgirl in a vehicle on a road near Kionsom Waterfall in Inanam between 9am and 10am on Feb 18, 2013.
In a cowardly and dastardly act, the rapist married the girl in May that year in a bid to escape conviction; he, however, was charged with bribing the girl’s father with RM10,000 to withdraw the police report the girl had made against him.
The law took its course after the Kota Kinabalu High Court dismissed the appeal pertaining to Riduan’s statutory rape case in 2015.
So when Rohani’s comment about “girl who married rapist is fine” ended up as headline in some news portals and mainstream newspapers, it was no less a case of stirring the hornet’s nest.
The remark coming from Rohani is both damaging and disparaging to a rape survivor; it gives the impression that the child is happy being married to her rapist which certainly is not the case.
The fact that the beleaguring take-away message from the minister further victimises rape survivors, portraying them as emaciated and at the mercy of the rapists, could have been avoided had Rohani the sagacity to weigh carefully the
implications of her words.
It is just as flustering that the minister failed to empathise and relate to the girl’s aspiration of turning her life around after the ordeal that had her quitting school at age 12.
Lost opportunity to motivate rape survivors
A child whose life was traumatised as a result of the sexual abuse and whose education came to a halt due to the shame and stigma she endured remains unfettered in her dream of shaping her destiny – would have made a memorable, enduring and highly rousing account.
Regrettably, what would have made for a great motivation ended up as a bitter aftertaste, leaving the girl cringing yet again, this time emotionally and mentally, troubled by Rohani’s comprehension of her nightmare.
There is nothing worth prancing about when Rohani told the Dewan Rakyat that the girl is “fine”. It would have been a game changer had the minister the foresight to declare that the young girl, now a teenager, served as a stirring example
based on her grit to succeed in life.
“We visited the girl at her family home on April 18 and she was in good health while the husband is serving his time,” Rohani told Teo Nie Ching (DAP-Kulai). Rohani said she also visited Riduan, a former restaurant manager, in Kepayan prison in Kota Kinabalu early this year.
The minister also shared with the Dewan Rakyat about the girl’s refusal to return to school as she was embarrassed by the wide media coverage on her case.
Rohani said the girl told the child protection officer in 2014 that she was comfortable living with her parents as she could help take care of her siblings.
“The girl had also voiced her intention to work so she could be self-sufficient.
“The parents also informed us that they had no problem in taking care of her,” said Rohani, reported The Star.
While the girl’s courage and perseverance to become self-reliant deserves applause, it is baffling why the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry did not find it important to aid the child in completing her education.
Does the ministry’s responsibility end with a visit and chit-chat with the girl? Was the essence of the minister’s meeting with the girl all about her being “fine” i.e. health-wise or matrimonially?
Rohani was both garrulous and execrable in performing her duties as the Women, Family and Community Development Minister through her “girl is fine” innuendo.
As a result the minister lost the most opportune moment to spur the girl and other rape survivors on to make good on their lives in spite of the painful and terrifying agony.