A video of Datuk Shabudin Yahaya’s controversial statement about child marriages in Parliament has gone viral, which appears to raise questions on his claim that his remarks were taken out of context.
After coming under fire for suggesting in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday that it is all right for rapists to marry their child victims, the Teluk Gelugor MP issued a statement the next day to say that his words had been taken out of context.
In a three-page statement yesterday, Shabudin continued to blame the media for the outcry over his remarks, even saying that their reports bordered on fake news.
In the Parliament recording, Shabudin argued that it is not a problem for children under 16 years old to marry as their body are physically mature enough for marriage.
He said a child who has reached puberty, even at nine years old, could be considered mature.
In some cases, he said, someone aged 12 and 15 could physically look like they were 18, and thus would be ready for marriage.
“In some instances, it is not impossible that they get married if they have reached puberty at the age of nine. A 12-year-old may have the body of an 18-year-old which means some girls are ‘physically and spiritually’ ready for marriage,” he said.
The former Syariah Court judge is mulling over legal action against the media.
In yesterday’s statement, Shabudin said his remarks during the debate on the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 on Tuesday led to an unnecessary outcry after they were inaccurately interpreted in reports by both local and international news organisations.
“In their reports and headlines, both the local and international media gave the perception that I had condoned rapists being allowed to marry underage victims to avoid punishment.
“This is inaccurate and misleading and borders on fake news,” he said.
The Barisan Nasional MP said he had stressed during the debate that rape is a crime whether consensual or otherwise.
“At no point in time did I suggest that the rapists are forced to marry the victims nor did I say that the crime of rape is automatically dropped after marriage.”
Shabudin explained that he had given his opinion that the courts should be allowed to rule on cases of statutory rape involving consenting partners, and treat such cases differently from non-consensual rape, as opposed to an outright ban on underage marriages.
He made the remarks in response to the suggestion by Kulai DAP MP Teo Nie Ching to include child marriage as an offence in the proposed law.
The legal age for marriage in Malaysia is 21 without parental consent, and 18 with parental consent, while the legal age of consent is 16.
However, in certain cases, those below the legal age can marry if given a special marriage licence from the head of their state government or approved by the court.
In a related development, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim defended Shabudin, saying that being a former Syariah Court judge, he had encountered all these scenarios.
“He was not implying that a nine-year-old girl can get married, but rather, he was being detailed in his explanation,” Rohani told reporters at a function yesterday.
She said Shabudin has been “very supportive” of the Bill as he himself had presided over cases of sexual crimes against children.
In Ipoh, Gerakan adviser Tan Sri Chang Ko Youn urged Shabudin to do the right thing and apologise.
“What he said is outrageous. No matter what he tries to say now, the damage has already been done. He should apologise,” he said.
“Otherwise he would present himself as a subject of ridicule and be a liability to Barisan Nasional in the next general election.”