Over here in Vulcan Post, we commended the launch of Malaysia’s first anti-rape website but were still left with many questions, particularly when it came to why it felt as if one part of the population was seemingly left out.
So, we got in touch with YB Yeo Bee Yin, the State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama and also one of the key players behind antirogol.com, to ask her about what we’ve noticed and also to find out more about the campaign.
YB Yeo Bee Yin has been vocal about her support for anti-rape campaigns and women’s rights, and the antirogol.com initiative is actually funded by the Selangor State Government’s allocation to YB Yeo’s office.
VP: Pusat Khidmat ADUN Damansara Utama and AWAM have collaborated to run another rape awareness campaign in the past. How did that do to raise awareness about rape in Malaysia?
YB Yeo Bee Yin: Last year’s campaign theme was “Rogol adalah rogol”. We launched a YouTube video and garnered more than 200,000 views.
The purpose of us releasing it in video format is to reach to more people (compared to a forum) and most importantly so we can reach to the victims (who may not tell anyone that they’re a victim even).
However, the video has also created controversy especially on the issue marital rape.
VP: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle to reducing the prevalence of rape in Malaysia?
YB Yeo Bee Yin: There is a low level of awareness as it is a taboo topic. Teachers don’t usually teach the children about it at school and even parents shy away from the topic.
The victim-blaming culture and the fact that most of the rape cases were done by people the victims know lead to a low reporting rate, which further embolden the “potential rapists” into thinking that they can get away with it.
My campaign statement last year has the stats on the conviction rate and why they can’t be convicted at the court.
VP: We are aware, or should be aware that rape does not discriminate gender. I know that you’re partnering with AWAM, a women’s advocacy group, but the cases of men being raped are already being under-reported in Malaysia. The antirogol website seems to be targeted only at women. Was this a deliberate choice?
YB Yeo Bee Yin: Rape awareness in Malaysia is still low. So the anti-rape campaign message was designed to be short and simple so to get the “first step” message across. It is difficult to run a campaign to promote different messages, so we chose women as victims, as a majority of the victims are women.
As our society awareness on the issue gets higher, our future campaign message can then get to the second or third step messages such as male rape victims, etc.
VP: Related to the question above, is the 24-hour care line open for men to call? We know there are cases overseas reported where men have called helplines and have been mocked for calling, or told it’s for women only.
YB Yeo Bee Yin: Yes. As clarification, Talian Kasih and 999 both are numbers run by federal government. Many of the contacts are NGOs and hospitals. The purpose of the website is to promote all relevant numbers and contacts so people can locate help. They are not gender specific.
VP: Will having a sexual offender registry be effective in Malaysia? How would this be enforced or carried out? Is the information on that registry going to be open to the public?
YB Yeo Bee Yin: Sexual registry—yes to certain extent but it won’t solve the rape problem. Rape is a complicated issue that is more about power than sex. Having a registry, better conviction rate, or enforcement will make people think twice when they want to rape but won’t prevent rape. This is just one of the many steps the society need to take.
Yes, sex offender registry can be carried out. The US example is here.
Yes, it should be a publicly accessible information.
By the way, recently announced changes to the child act amendment is not a sex registry. Even as a child sexual offender registry, the act amendment itself lacks details.
VP: There are these stats on your website and reported by other Malaysian news sources: “On average, there are 3000 rape cases reported every year in Malaysia. But, only 2 out of every 10 cases are reported.”
What do these statistics mean? Do you mean that you are estimating that only 20% of cases are reported, and are extrapolating that for every 2 cases reported, 8 others are unreported? If this is so, how did that estimate come about?
YB Yeo Bee Yin: It is an estimation. Parliamentary reply for reported cases is around 3000 every year. So if you extrapolate (2 out of 10 reported), you get about 15,000 per year, 15,000/365/24 = 1.7 cases per hour, which work out to be 1 case every 35 minutes. Please bear in mind that NGOs used to believe that only 1 out 10 case was reported, which will give an even more depressing number.
There is much to think about what she has said, and we hope that this campaign and other similar ones can continue to educate the public.
We agree that rape awareness is low, and that we need to get the message across quickly and easily, but we hope that the future brings more active work towards reducing rape and reducing the stigma against the victims, of whatever gender, race or creed.
Feature Image Credit: Jimbotan2010 Youtube