Source: The Star Online, Malaysia. Thursday, April 11, 2002.
Full force of law against rape
By JANE RITIKOS
KUALA LUMPUR: Further amendments to the Penal Code may be made to compel the court to mete out the maximum sentence on perpetrators of rape and incest.
“We are considering altering the language of the law to make it mandatory for the court to mete out the maximum sentence,’’ Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Rais Yatim said yesterday.
He confirmed that he had proposed to submit a note to the Cabinet on the need to amend Section 376A of the Penal Code with the proviso that it had been amended and gazetted last September but yet to be implemented.
“This is to comply with the expressions of the Deputy Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) who wants a proportionate and deterring sentence for rapists and those who engage in incestuous acts,’’ he said, adding that the note would be submitted within a month or two.
Dr Rais said another possible recommendation was prescribing the number of whipping to be meted out on those found guilty of such crimes.
“The Act made whipping a mandatory penalty for rape and incest but the number of strokes is not spelt out. It is up to the discretion of the prison and depending on the fitness of the perpetrator,’’ he said.
Dr Rais said another possible recommendation was to look into the procedures of evidence gathering so that the cases would be foolproof for prosecution.
He, however, stressed that a “deep study” would have to be conducted with the consultation of the Attorney-General as further amending of the Act at this time would require legal justification.
“We are looking into the possibility of recommending stiffer punishment for rape and incest although some quarters may query why as the (amended) law has not been implemented,’’ he said.
The Penal Code was amended last year to include a new section 376A, which separates incest from other forms of rape.
While the jail term for rape has been retained at between five and 20 years, the new section provides for a minimum of six years and a maximum of 20 years jail. The Act also includes mandatory whipping for rape and incest.
Dr Rais said amending the Act at this time would not augur well with the practise of imposing new laws.
“Bear in mind that the section was just amended. But we will comply with the public view, especially when translated through the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister.
“We want to apply quick reaction,’’ he said.
Asked why the penalties imposed through the previous amendments was not harsh enough to cause a public outcry, Dr Rais said the study would also see whether there was a widespread reaction or just the concern of some.
“While we are concerned with the rising incidences of incest where children are mostly the victims, we must also be fair in law- making.
“But we can converge Section 376A to put in place the feelings of the public,’’ he said.