Judiciary should clarify judgment — Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG)
AUG 10 — Yesterday, the Court of Appeal unanimously decided to overturn a High Court decision sentencing national bowler Noor Afizal Azizan to five years’ jail for statutory rape. Instead, he was bound over for five years for good behaviour, for a sum of RM25, 000.
In his judgment, Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Raus Md Shariff noted that “public interest would not be served if Noor Afizal was sent to jail as he had a bright future.”
While the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) acknowledges the lack of information on factors influencing the appellate court’s decision in sentencing, we are troubled that the perpetrator’s potential for “a bright future”, presumably derived from his status as a national athlete, was used as one of the grounds for sentencing.
If this was the sole influencing factor in sentencing, then JAG expresses regret over the decision by the Court of Appeal that the perpetrator was released on probation of good conduct for the offence of statutory rape.
On the surface, the judgment appears to hint at the application of a double standard by implying that anyone with the right “credentials” can commit a crime, and get away with a rap on the knuckles. Does it mean that an individual who is perceived to have no future would get a heavier sentence?
JAG respects and upholds the discretionary powers of the court in sentencing; we believe that the court has a duty to exercise its powers equitably so as to ensure that justice is applied equally to all strata of society.
We recognise the potential complexities involved in statutory rape cases. While statutory rape laws are put into place to protect children from abuse by older, predatory partners, teenagers in a sexual relationship can sometimes get caught in the crossfire.
We urge the judiciary to clarify in their judgment all of the factors that were taken into account for the sentencing. JAG hopes that although the victim may have “consented” to sex, the effect of the crime on the victim (i.e. a child of 13 years) was also considered.
* The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) comprises Sisters In Islam (SIS), the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC), Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) and Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER).
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.