KUALA LUMPUR – A Malaysian man was charged on Thursday with more than 600 counts of raping and sodomizing his teenaged daughter, prompting calls for greater protection for women and girls.
The case comes as Malaysia seeks to crack down on child sex offenses, including the establishment of a special court for abuse cases, and tougher sentencing for child pornography and grooming.]
Reuters reported last year that most complaints of child sexual abuse in Malaysia do not lead to successful prosecutions, largely due to weaknesses in the criminal justice system.
The 36-year-old man was charged with 626 counts of sodomy, rape, incest and other sexual abuses against his daughter, now 15. The crimes happened over two years after the girl’s parents divorced in 2015, prosecutor Aimi Syazwani Sarmin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The man pleaded not guilty to the crimes before the hearing was adjourned, pending a trial.
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.
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,” said Tan Heang Lee from the Women’s Aid Organization. “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 U.S. 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 percent 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 man was first brought to the court on Wednesday but the proceeding was delayed after prosecutors spent hours counting the mountain of documents detailing his charges.