On 20th May, news reports of a 14 year old girl raped by up to 38 men in Kelantan emerged. More than 3 weeks after this horrific incident, proof of the tidak apa attitude, apathy and callous indifference of Malaysians has never been more clear.
In any other civilized country this horrific event would have brought about national condemnation and soul searching. The country’s citizens would be up in arms calling for action. The country’s leaders – from the highest up – would have been indignant that this happened on their watch. They would have put aside their busy agenda and taken the lead in expressing remorse and shame. Their calls for better protection of our children would have been the loudest and their steps in ensuring despicable acts like this shall never happen again in the firmest language.
For years, the civil society organisations in this country especially the women groups, have been engaging, calling and urging the relevant authorities in creating a safe environment to our women and girls. The statistics of the Department of Social Welfare shows an increase of cases of child abuse, especially sexual abuse and neglect, from 2,789 in 2009 to 3,428 in 2011,(Unicef, 2 June, 2014).
Instead, there is a deafening silence and muted reaction from Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is also the Minister for Women’s Ministry, his government and BN component parties and to a lesser extent the opposition, too. It appears that this mass rape incident which had made internationally is just another Malaysian incident, to be forgotten the next day.
We are now a desensitized nation.
The Need for National Reflection
Undoubtedly, this savage incident is a stain on Malaysia’s global pride. But far worse is the threat it poses to the social contract between the youth and the adults of this nation. The youth look to the adults as protectors and guides. Those entrusted with power and responsibilities are expected to carry that trust out. They are expected to safeguard, guide and lead.
Instead the official apathy is symptomatic of the moral and social decay that has infected large parts of our nation. This is no isolated incident but is taking place with increasing frequency even as our political and religious leaders are trumpeting that we are reaching new heights of national religious piety and grandeur.
It is also a damning indictment of the way in which religion has been hijacked by our political leaders and religious authorities when absurd claims are made that the gang rape incident reflects the failure of “man-made laws” and proves the need for “divine” hudud. These are typical knee-jerk and opportunists’ reactions which are ill-evidenced and demeaning to authentic religiosity.
The social contract between the youth and the leaders of the nation is fragile and when broken causes incalculable damage. They are witnessing one of their own suffering a horrific fate and the failure of their leaders in reacting appropriately. They see the gaping holes in the leadership of their beloved nation. They are losing trust and confidence. They feel unsafe, unprotected and unvalued. They are disillusioned.
It is time for some national reflection and soul searching. Are our children given or getting the protection they deserve? Do they feel safe? Do they feel valued? Or are they part of the collateral damage?
There is an urgent need to address gender stereotyping and that rape culture is condemnable and unacceptable which perpetuates the destructive masculinity power. Programmes of public educational awareness should be extended to all including at the school levels with life skill, reproductive health and gender awareness; public security forces and mechanism such as the police forces should be strengthened in combating social crimes; supporting agencies such as the counselling services to both the parents and the survivors of sexual violence should be fully and effectively put in place at all districts.
Our Call to the Nation
We hold the leadership of our nation responsible. We remind leaders of all spectrums that they more than anyone else carry the responsibility of ensuring the safety and well being of our children. Political, religious, community and welfare leaders as well as the police must sit up and take heed of their failures.
The Kelantan mass rape must be our wake up call. It must serve to remind us of our shortcomings and the dangers facing our children in this country today. It must bring to fore the enormous burden of responsibility we bear as an individual, a community and a nation.
A young life has been violated beyond comprehension. Public discourse must include not only recognizing leadership failures, identifying steps to guarantee the safety of our children but also our determination in seeing this tragedy shall and must never happens again. The cost of ignoring the growing danger facing the young of our nation is one we should never be willing to pay.
Issued by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia:
- Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Gabungan Persatuan Alumni Universiti Taiwan Malaysia (GPAUTM)
- Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
- Japan Graduates Association, Malayia (JAGAM)
- Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
- LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
- Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
- National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT)
- Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust)
- Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas)
- Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS)
- Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
- Tamil Foundation
- The Federation of Chinese Associations Johore State (FCAJ)
- United Chinese School Alumni Association of Malaysia (UCSAAM)