It's unfair to treat the case of the 15-year old girl as murder - Child advocates

16 Feb 2022 01:22pm
A 15- year old girl believed to be a rape victim was charged at the Kemaman magistrate's court on Feb 15, with murdering her newborn baby. - BERNAMA
A 15- year old girl believed to be a rape victim was charged at the Kemaman magistrate's court on Feb 15, with murdering her newborn baby. - BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM - Authorities should rethink the way the case of the 15-year old alleged rape victim who was charged with killing her newborn baby in Kemaman, Terengganu, was investigated.

Children’s rights and family lawyer Goh Siu Lin said the responsible agencies should have taken into consideration on whether to treat the teenage girl as the perpetrator or the victim, as the act might have been done under distress.

Goh said it was unfair to treat the case as murder as the girl was a victim of circumstance and was not capable to give consent.

“The circumstances of her committing the act stemmed from fear, trauma or indication that nobody knew about her condition and that she did not seem to have any avenue or protection.

“It is a very traumatic experience for a young girl and we must remember she is still a child,” she told Sinar Daily.

She said the mental state of the girl when she committed the offence needed to be considered because people who were under stress, tend to make irrational decisions, noting that the IQ level of a person under stress drops by 30 per cent.

This, she said is especially when a person had went through a traumatic experience, such as being raped and childbirth.

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She said poverty, economic and social inequality and gender inequality were among the factors contributing to the phenomenon.

“The young girls who got pregnant in this kind of situation are driven to take desperate measures that lead to the actions,” she said.

Future wise, Goh said, a lot can be done to support children who find themselves in conflict with the law such as strengthening the support services.

In this case, she said if the girl was not supported mentally because of what she went through, it would be very difficult for her to heal and whether she will ever recover from this depended on the treatment she received.

Goh said blaming the victim and stigmatising the issue would lead to people unwilling to address the underlying roots of the problem.

Meanwhile, Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) advocacy officer Kiran Kaur said rape has dehumanising impacts on victims and survivors in which many had to carry for years after.

“Survivors often need intensive psychosocial help and counselling in order to heal and move past such traumatic experience,” she said.

Pertinent to the case, Kiran said the legal system had failed to see beyond what was happening to the girl.

She said it was clear that the girl needs rehabilitation and her action was inflicted by the sexual abuse against her.

“The court must realise that the teen acted in desperation, given the fact that she is a child herself. All responses to the case must be guided by the Child Act 2001, whereby her rights and welfare must be protected at every turn.

“We need to firstly recognise that the tragic outcome that we are currently seeing is a manifestation of the system that was supposed to protect the girl severely failing to do so.

“She should have been afforded appropriate intervention when she dropped out of school, and when she was raped. Her welfare should have been protected, but unfortunately it was not,” she said when contacted.

The government and the relevant agencies should play their roles in protecting the welfare of the rape victims as they had to live with emotional damage for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Child activist Dr Hartini Zainudin said there should be a uniformed approach in upholding the rights of children in conflict with the law especially those under 16.

Authorities must consider extenuating circumstances, she said commenting on the case.

Yesterday (Feb 14), a 15-year old girl was charged at the magistrate’s court in Kemaman, Terengganu with murdering her newborn baby boy on Feb 8.

The girl was denied bail by the court.

It was reported that a 15-year old girl who became pregnant after being raped, was arrested when police found the dead body of a newborn baby at a house in Kemaman on Feb 8.

Initial investigations by police revealed that the baby had been stabbed with a sharp object.