Whistles, pepper spray, self-defense classes, identifying potentially threatening situations: these are some of the methods we teach girls to avoid rape and defend themselves from rape – instead of teaching men not to rape.

A Malaysian MP has suggested yet another solution to the social and psychological destruction caused by sexual assault that does not include teaching men self-control.

Take Action: Help Change the Unjust Laws That Discriminate Against Girls and Women #LeveltheLaw

During debate over amending the Sexual Offences Against Children bill to include child marriage, Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional Coalition, told the Houses of Parliament that rape victims could, “turn a new leaf in life,” by marrying their rapists, according to Malaysia’s The Star newspaper

“Perhaps through marriage they can lead a healthier, better life,” Shabudin said. “And the person who was raped does not necessarily have a bleak future. She will have a husband, at least, and this could serve as a remedy to growing social problems.”

Read More: Incredible Portraits of Child Marriage and FGM Survivors

Shabudin, who also served as a judge in the country’s Sharia law court system, claimed that girls as young as 9 who had reached puberty could be “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage:

“At that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old,” he said.

Shabudin’s statements have been widely criticized.

“I was outraged that he would make such a statement,” Sharmila Sekaran, chair of the advocacy group Voice of the Children, told the Guardian. “Basically to justify and legalize a wrong, a statutory rape.”

Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, also condemned Shabudin’s claims.

“It is not acceptable in this 21st century that we suggest that a rapist who should be prosecuted can escape legal responsibility simply by marrying his victim,” he said.

Read More: Meet 6 Child Brides Who Stood Up For What’s Right

Malaysia has two sets of laws that govern child marriage in the country. Under civil law, the minimum age for marriage is 18, though individuals older than 16 can be married with special permission from the state’s chief minister. But if Sharia courts, which are based on Islamic law, grant special permission, children under the age of 16 are allowed to marry. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan, this provision allows children as young as 10 to be married, the Independent reports.

Sexist laws relating to child marriage and sexual assault are not limited to Malaysia. Bangladesh, for instance, has no minimum age for marriage. Marital rape is still legal in India and Malaysia.  

In the US, many states require proof of force or threat of force to prosecute marital rape. In 2012, Idaho Senator Todd Akin claimed female rape victims naturally resist being impregnated by their assailants.

Germany only recently changed it’s sexual assault laws to recognize the victim saying “no” as grounds to prosecute a rape. Previously, rape victims had to prove they resisted.  

Read More: Teens in Bangladesh Are Ending Child Marriage One Door at a Time

In a three-page statement on Wednesday, Shabudin claimed media reports took his comments out of context. He affirmed that marriage is not a “back door exit to legalize rape,” but maintained his stance that criminalizing child marriage would contradict Sharia law.  

The child sex crimes law that passed on Tuesday criminalizes grooming – befriending a child (often online) or touching them as a prelude to sexual abuse – but makes no mention of child marriage.

Global Citizen is campaigning to end child marriage and get countries to change laws that discriminate against girls and women. Sign the petition to end child marriage and help #LeveltheLaw, for girls in Malaysia and around the world. 


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Malaysian MP Says Rape Victims Can Avoid ‘Bleak Future’ By Marrying Their Rapists

By James O'Hare