Saturday, June 24, 2006

There's rape & there's rape!

Now this is interesting.

JAG, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, is up in arms against lawyers for their lack of gender awareness, as reflected in the Bar Council's stand on certain proposed Penal Code amendments. And what would those be?

Well, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code has proposed to table a new sub-section 375 (f) of the Penal Code, which states that a man commits aggravated rape if he has sex with a woman “with her consent, when the consent is obtained by using his position of authority over her or because of professional or other relationship of trust in relation to her.”

Blah blah blah & bloody blah!

In simple words, what it has said was, for example, if a secretary agrees to have sex with her boss, because he has hinted or even vaguely alluded that saying 'no' may jeopardise her job, that, according to the proposed amendment, is rape!

Another example of rape under this provision would be a woman agreeing to have sex with a bomoh (traditional medicine man) or medium because she has been intimidated with the supernatural or brainwashed into trusting the scoundrel and his nefarious acts.

Then there would be the doctor or psychologist who, while treating a patient, uses his professional authority to obtain her consent for sex with her.

JAG said the intention behind the sub-section is to protect women forced into sex by the use of non-physical elements such as the perpetrator’s authority over the woman, and thus has been deeply disappointed with the Bar Council’s complete lack of gender awareness.

The Council has objected to the proposed amendments because it has been concerned that the new sub-section of the Penal Code was way too wide.

But the Bar Council represented by criminal lawyer V Sithambaram explained it has been against the amendment because it was redundant. The exiting law already defines rape as sexual intercourse against a woman’s will. He reckoned the proposed amendment to the Penal Code had been designed to appease the women’s rights groups, who have been insistent on it.

He is worried that the new clause could be easily abused by women should a relationship turn sour.

What he meant was, for example, a boss and his secretary could initially have a genuine love affair where there was no coercion or any form of 'authoritative' pressure in their sexual relationship. Their professional relationship was just coincidental.

But what if the man subsequently changed his mind about the relationship and decided not to marry the woman? She could well blackmail the former boyfriend by threatening to use said subsection to aver she was ‘pressured’ into having sex with him? Or she could claim ‘rape’ as an act of spite.

There’s an old English saying that informs us “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, which undoubtedly the Bar Council must have in mind.

Gulp, I wonder whether a woman could claim ‘rape’ on grounds she was ‘subconsciously pressured’ into having sex because she felt sorry for the poor pathetic grovelling blighter.

Bar Council president Yeo Yang Poh said the legal profession body wasn’t ignoring the seriousness of rape committed by a person in a position of authority to obtain sexual favours without genuine consent. But he added:

“We, however, find the wordings of the proposed definition maybe too wide and this may inadvertently capture situations that are not supposed to be covered.”

Yeo said the council did not oppose to the proposed definition per se but would like a review of the wordings.

Both JAG and the Bar Council have their grounds and concerns. What do you think?

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