KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, REUTERS) - A Malaysian man has been charged with more than 600 sex assaults against his daughter, and could face a jail term of over 12,000 years if found guilty, officials said Thursday (Aug 10).
The case comes as Malaysia seeks to crack down on child sex offences, including the establishment of a special court for abuse cases, and tougher sentencing for child pornography and grooming.)
Court officials took two days to read out all 626 charges against the 36-year-old divorcee, and finished Thursday afternoon.
They included 599 charges of sodomy against the 15-year-old girl, as well as counts of incest, rape and other sex crimes.
According to the charge sheet, the man is said to have sexually assaulted the girl, his eldest daughter, several times a day in their apartment in Sungai Way, Petaling Jaya between January and July this year.
It is learnt that the man was divorced two years ago and had custody of the victim. Local media said the girl only revealed the ordeal to her mother after she learnt her father planned to take her two younger sisters away from the mother to live with him.
The mother lodged a police report in July, which led to the arrest. The case was then heard in the new court, which aims to speed cases through the system and better protect children.
The bespectacled suspect, in a grey T-shirt and blue trousers, was calm when the charges were read in court. He pleaded not guilty and the case will now proceed to trial.
“He faces a prison sentence of over 12,000 years,” Aimi Syazwani, a deputy public prosecutor, told AFP at a newly-established special court for sex crimes against children in the administrative capital Putrajaya.
For each charge of sodomy, the man can be punished with a maximum jail term of 20 years, as well as caning. He faces a rape charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, and 30 other charges of sexual assault, each punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
Judge Yong Zarida Sazali denied the man bail after prosecutors warned there was a danger of him fleeing or intimidating witnesses. The suspect, who sold investment products, cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim.
10 WOMEN RAPED A DAY
Campaigners say the case highlights the need to ensure cases of sexual assaults against minors be dealt with seriously to deter others, and for stronger measures to support survivors.
“The perpetrator must be brought to justice,” Tan Heang Lee from the Women’s Aid Organisation told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “What we need to ensure is that the child is given adequate emotional support to prevent further trauma during (the) court trial process.”
Campaigners say 10 women are on average raped in the country each day, and more than half of them are under 16, according to a US State Department 2016 report. The report also cited official data showing that out of the 28,741 rape cases reported from 2005 to 2014, less than 3 per cent ended with a guilty verdict in court.
It cited cultural attitudes in mostly Muslim Malaysia and a lack of sympathy from the male-dominant police force as factors that discourage women from reporting the crime.
The special court for sexual crimes against children was launched in June after a spate of heinous sexual crimes against children made headlines in the country.