Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What ails Malaysian women?

Beware the internet trolls

On March 8, International Women's Day, social media feeds were filled with posts in celebration of women and their achievements. However the internet is far from a "friendly" place for Malaysian women.

If comments and posts on social media serve as a mirror of the society that we live in, despite enjoying more independence and being successful at what we do, we remain "oppressed" by a deeply entrenched misogynistic culture.

In short, women in Malaysia are not respected and treated as equals - to this day. Several issues that flared up on social media over the past year serves as proof of the discrimination that women have faced, and will continue to face as long as patriarchal attitudes persist.

From the gymnast who was critised for wearing an outfit which showed the "shape of her vagina" to a retired senior civil servant and journalist who received threats for voicing out their opinions on Islamic laws, Malaysian women have not been spared from vicious sexist attacks by keyboard warriors’.

Gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi won six medals at the SEA Games, but what was supposed to be a celebration turned into a storm of controversy when a photo of her posted on Buletin TV3's Facebook page resulted in a barrage of comments on her "revealing" leotard.

While the criticism against Farah Ann can be described as silly and trivial, the criminal threats levelled against G25 spokesman Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin and BFM journalist Aisyah Tajuddin speaks of a culture where violence against women remains a serious issue.

Following a press conference where Noor Farida called for a review of Syariah laws on khalwat (close proximity), animal activist Sharul Nizam Ab Rahim threatened to break into her room and rape her in a Facebook posting.

In the post which has since been taken down by Facebook, Sharul Nizam said he wanted to break into Noor Farida's home, lie on her bed and "try" her. 

Based on the events of the past year, it appears that men become aggressive when faced with women who question cultural and religious norms. Take the case of BFM presenter Aisyah Tajuddin who appeared in a satirical video on the implementation of hudud in Kelantan. Internet trolls threatened to rape her, burn her alive or shoot her in the head. 

 So how should an independent, outspoken woman deal with social media bullies?

Making the internet a safer place for women is not the responsibility of a few; all of us have a part to play here.

 Make an effort to report abusive account owners to the social media administrators, the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

The authorities won't investigate until official complaints have been made.

In the case of Sharul Nizam, Facebook temporarily suspended his account after receiving numerous complaints and police said they would track him down after reports were lodged by several non-governmental organisations.

So the next time you come across such cases of cyber bullying, don't just be outraged, make an effort to take action! It's a long haul, but we will get there.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What will the mass cull in the name of rabies achieve?

IF you think that the mass culling of stray dogs in the northern states which began last month, after rabies was first detected in Perlis on Aug 19 will serve to eliminate the zoonotic virus from spreading further, I urge you to think again.

Let us not be deluded by the notion that the council workers, dog catchers and Department of Veterinary Services personnel are coming face to face with ferocious, rabid and snarling dogs on their culling rounds which they are "destroying" for the good of the community.

The dogs that are becoming easy kill are dogs like Ah Pek, his photo first appeared in a Facebook post on Sept 23. It was a poignant image of a white dog sitting resignedly with its head slightly bent.

The dog had a collar around its neck and was surrounded by Majilis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) workers, one worker in particular held a metal chain that was fastened around Ah Pek's neck. It was a sad image indeed, of man's best friend on death row.

Some netizens who commented on the photo said the dog was likely abandoned by its owner because of the rabies scare and fell victim to the dog catchers.

Soon after the real story came to light, Ah Pek was a friendly community dog at Desa Mawar in Air Itam.

He was owned by Wayne Ng who operates a coffee shop in the area and was licensed and vaccinated. At the time of his death, when he was caught and killed by the council workers and dog catchers, his MBPP license tag was hung around his neck.

Ng could not house Ah Pek in his flat, but he cared for all his basic necessities and according to residents in the area, Ah Pek was often found leashed outside the coffee shop.

Most residents at the Desa Mawar apartment had fond memories of Ah Pek, saying he was loved by many and that people would press the lift button for him to go upstairs to find his owner.

Sadly it was his friendly nature and trust in humans that proved fatal in the end. He stood innocently  when approached by the dog catchers, Ah Pek did not put up a fight.

But he died a painful death, Ah Pek was not put to sleep with an injection, he was strangled with a hook and choked to death.

His owners have since held a press conference to highlight the injustice committed against this friendly community dog who was licensed and vaccinated, but became a victim of the state's mass rabies cull. The incident has since been highlighted in the Chinese media.

Though the general public might not be aware of this, this is the reality on the ground, because of their tame and trusting nature, it is community dogs that have become easy kill for the dog catchers.

The story of Ah Pek is a case in point. In fact a few days after the culling operations began, many independent rescuers reported that dogs under their care had vanished overnight.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng however says that the dogs are being put down in a humane manner with tranquilisers, adding that death takes place in less than a minute and is painless.

Accounts from independent rescuers and NGOs who have been tailing the dog catchers however suggest otherwise.

According to animal welfare coalition Stop Killing, Start Vaccinating (SKSV), they have documented proof that dogs were mistreated and put under a lot of stress before they were killed.

Based on accounts from NGOs and rescuers, council and DVS staff involved in the culling exercise frequently use a decoy in attempts to evade them.

Those who try to document the culling exercise have also been warned by the dog catchers not to do so.

If everything was being done in a legal and humane manner as asserted by the chief minister, why the need to warn the NGOs not to take photos and why the attempts to evade them?

The NGOs know full well that they can't obstruct local council personnel and DVS staff from carrying out culling activities, as such they should be allowed to gather documentary evidence in the name of transparency.

What is troubling however is accounts that have surfaced on Facebook from independent rescuers. One rescuer who posted on Facebook on Saturday, described how several puppies were put in plastic bags by the dog catchers and knocked to death with stones.

She added that to stop the puppies from struggling, the dog catchers stepped on their faces to stop them from struggling. The rescuer added that she could not take a video or photos, after being warned that she would be charged in court or face action from the authorities.

According to Penang Veterinary  Services Department director  Dr Siti Salmiah Tahir, a total of 1,647 stray dogs have been killed since the culling operations began on Sept 15, this number includes community dogs who have been sterilised, vaccinated and managed by independent feeders and rescuers.

As Siti Salmiah herself acknowledged, many strays could not be captured. These are likely more feral dogs who shy away from humans or strays who have suffered abuse and are not as trusting as community dogs who are easier to approach.

Despite the order to "destroy" all strays, even the state governments of Penang, Kedah and Perlis must acknowledge that no matter how long this operation continues, they will never succeed in completely eliminating the stray population.

Stray dogs that have so far eluded the dog catchers will remain just that, elusive, moving further and further away from harm's way. If some of these dogs carry the rabies virus, the efforts of the three state governments to fight rabies by culling would be rendered ineffective.

Containing the spread of the virus

As suggested by animal welfare NGOs, the best chance of stemming the spread of the virus would have been to initiate a vaccination programme for strays in the affected areas and to put dogs who display symptoms of rabies to sleep in a humane manner.

Even the authorities themselves must acknowledge that the culling operations cannot go on indefinitely at the taxpayer's expense.

They must also take into account, that for every stray "destroyed", more are being produced, and I am not just talking about the litters produced by feral dogs and cats.

One of the biggest contributors to Malaysia's stray problem is irresponsible pet owners, puppy mills and pet shops.

Despite local councils saying that owners who apply for dog licenses must have their pets neutered, many people don't apply for licences and are happy to let their pets breed.

These are the people who will dump newborn puppies and kitten in boxes outside veterinary clinics, animal shelters, restaurants and hawker centres, the stray dogs and cats you see scavenging for leftovers outside food outlets were likely dumped there in infancy.

While some pet owners think they are doing a good deed by giving away litters of puppies and kittens each time their dog or cat gives birth. They don't seem to realise that not all of these puppies and kitten will end up in good homes for the rest of their lives.

At some point they might end up as strays on the streets, perhaps abandoned. As such, pet owners must realise that allowing their pets to breed is a  huge responsibility, they must ask themselves if they can guarantee that all the litters produced by their pets can be assured of good homes.

Despite the fact that many animal shelters are teeming with dogs and cats in need of good homes, the allure of buying a pedigree dog or cat from a pet shop is difficult to resist for many people out there.

It is a known but seldom mentioned fact that animals in pet shops come from puppy mills. As long as there's a demand for pet shop pedigrees, backyard breeders and puppy mills will continue to thrive.

Puppy mill operators are known to dump animals that can no longer breed outside shelters or on the streets.

While unsold pedigrees in pet shops are either sent back to puppy mills to breed, or put to sleep. 

To date there has been no concerted effort either by the local councils or the Veterinary Services Department to humanely manage the issue of strays or the dumping of unwanted animals.

Animal shelters manage as best as they can from public donations, but space is always a problem as irresponsible people continue to dump unwanted pets, most of whom are not sterilised as well.

Those who have come forward to be a lifeline for the strays, are independent rescuers who feed, neuter and manage the homeless dogs and cats in their community.

They do so on their own initiative, investing time and money in the process. When Penang began culling stray canines last month, it was the independent rescuers who were the most affected, as dogs under their care fell victim to the dog catchers.

Together with NGOs and animal activists, they were criticised by the Penang state government for being too emotional, but can we blame them?

These good samaritans have stepped up on their own initiative to manage the stray population, because the authorities have been disinclined to do so.

Though the local councils have complained about the costs incurred in having to put down stray dogs, they don't seem to have a plan to tackle the problem at its root.

Several NGOs have approached the various local councils to implement a Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage programme, however the councils appear reluctant to adopt an approach which involves releasing the dogs back on the streets, for fear of complaints from the public.

I believe this is where education plays a crucial role. The local councils should team up with DVS to educate the public on the benefits of TNRM and how it  is more effective in reducing the stray population in the long run compared to culling.

The local councils and DVS must also get tough with owners who don't neuter their pets. There must be no compromise on this, every person who adopts a dog or a cat must have the animal neutered.

While the DVS must launch a crackdown on illegal puppy mills and the pet shops that buy from them.

To encourage the adoption of homeless pets and lighten the burden of shelters, the DVS must make it mandatory for pet shops to work with shelters to promote the adoption of rescued dogs and cats.

In this way the shelters can keep rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and stray animals with support from DVS, local councils and pet shops to get the animals into good homes.

Lim who has come under heavy criticism for ordering the mass cull of strays has repeatedly said that his priority is to preserve human lives and that of pet dogs, he however fails to see that the human lives he is striving to protect is the cause of thousands of strays roaming the streets today.

Is it not the stray dog, rabid or not who is the enemy, it is irresponsible humans.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Justice delayed is justice denied

Justice delayed is justice denied is a popular legal maxim that means if legal redress is not forthcoming in a timely manner, it is akin to having no redress at all.

I believe the friends and family members of marketing executive Chee Gaik Yap who was raped and murdered in 2006 would heartily agree with this.

On Aug 9, almost ten years after her tragic demise, businessman Shahril Jaafar was sentenced to death by the Alor Star High Court for Chee's murder.

Despite the weight of the crime that he was accused off, Shahril almost got away with it on two occasions.

The first was when he skipped police bail and left for Perth, Australia, where he obtained permanent resident status. He was rearrested six years later upon his return on Jan 17, 2012.

He was charged two weeks later and stood trial, only to be acquitted by the High Court on June 25, 2013, without his defence being called.

In an emotionally charged scene, moments after the High Court discharged and acquitted Shahril of murdering his daughter, Chee Ah Sau barged out of the courtroom located on the second floor of the building and attempted to jump off the balcony, he was pulled to safety by press photographers, policemen and family members.

Speaking to reporters later, a heartbroken Ah Sau said: "I want justice for my daughter, I have waited so long, but it turned out like this."

Ah Sau's determination in seeking justice for his daughter finally paid off on Sunday. But as he told reporters, it remains to be seen if the accused will appeal his sentence and conviction.

Besides the long and painful wait for justice, Ah Sau and his family also had to endure the pain of seeing his daughter's reputation besmirched by the accused.

In his defence, Shahril resorted to painting Gaik Yap as a scarlet woman, saying she was a prostitute and that sex between them was consensual.Words that hurt an already grieving family

In an impact statement recorded by the court after Shahril was sentenced, Ah Sau said: "My daughter was not a prostitute, she was a university graduate and had a bright future ahead of her.

"She had been planning to go to Germany to gain work experience. Everything was ready. The tickets had been bought, then it happened," he said.

According to Ah Sau, Gaik Yap the third of six siblings, was an intelligent girl and the only one of his daughters with a university degree.

He described her as the hope of the family, and I am sure she would have achieved much if she was still alive today.

A bright light that was wiped out to soon because of one's man lust and capacity for violence.

But Shahril is only one of many such predators that lurk in society, and as the story of Gaik Yap has shown us, as heinous as the crime can be, justice can be a long time in coming.

Even now as I write this, there can be no telling when this rapist and murderer will actually go to the gallows.


More on this story:
Gaik Yap a good and intelligent daughter, says father
Man wants Karpal to seek justice for murdered daughter

Borneo Post Online
Star Online

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Father's Day

It is said that one would do anything for one's own flesh and blood, that the love of a parent for a child knows no bounds. That a father or mother would make great sacrifices for the wellbeing of their children, but does this great love extend to spilling the blood of another?

Is it called love when the life of one child is sacrificed so another can thrive? Does the sacrifices a parent makes for a child extend to slaughtering the child of another?

In a tale filled with more evil than love, one man had no qualms about luring a little boy to meet his end in a cruel manner, in the hopes that it might cure his sick teenage son who appeared to be possessed by a ghost.

According to Kodai Harijan, his 18-year-old son Bijay frequently fell ill. However this time around the ailing teenager who appeared to be possessed by a spirit, demanded for human flesh.

This incident took place in a village in southwest Nepal bordering India, where most of the populace are illiterate and poor - making it a hotbed for superstitious beliefs and where shamans are treated as veritable gods for their perceived magical powers.

The sacrifice of animals such as goats and buffaloes are not uncommon either, however no matter how backward their beliefs might be, it defies the very laws of basic humanity, that one would stoop to snatching and slaughtering the child of another, so that one's own child might prosper.

But this is exactly what this monster who calls himself a father did, he stepped out of his home in search of a sacrificial victim when he chanced upon the 10-year-old son of his neighbour playing with friends, the boy's parents were away tending to their crops.

Jivan Kohar's body was found three days after he was murdered. CNN Pic
It was the perfect opportunity, Kodai lured the child with a packet of biscuits and the promise of 50 rupees in return for following him. When Jivan Kohar got up to follow Kodai and his relatives, little did the poor child know that he would never see his family, friends and home ever again.

One can only imagine at what point in this horrific journey towards death, did the child realise that something was amiss. 

But what we do know from Kodai's own admission is that the boy was taken to a temple on the outskirts of the village where the shaman Ganga Harijan performed a prayer ritual after which Kodai and his relatives took Jivan to an open field.

One man held his arms and head while another held his feet, at this point Kodai stepped forth and slit the struggling child's throat with a sickle. 

Jivan's lifeless body was then dumped in a bush near the Shiwan temple on the banks of the Patera river. 

For three days, Jivan's parents searched for him aided by the other villagers, Kodai their neighbour also offered to look for the missing boy. He must have seen their grief, one wonders what he felt at that time, guilt perhaps? But secure in the fact that his son would be cured and continue to thrive to an old age, unlike the tragic little boy who was slaughtered, his corpse left to rot by the river, so a blood thirsty spirit might be appeased.

Kodai however is no slick criminal, days earlier he had told a village council that human sacrifice was needed to cure his ailing son, according to Jivan's grandfather. People laughed him off, not realising that he would actually go through with it.

After his arrests, he confessed to his crime, but what a strange confession, he said that he felt bad for "offering" Jivan as a sacrifice, adding that he was the only boy to be found at that time.

Which means that he was only sorry for grabbing his neighbour's son, but that he would have sacrificed another child anyway. 

One wonders if he would have stopped at sacrificing one child if he was not arrested. What if the spirit that supposedly possessed his son demanded more blood in order to be appeased.

The temple where the prayer ritual took place, before Jivan was taken to a field and murdered. CNN Pic

What is even more disturbing about this crime is that the prayer ritual conducted by the shaman took place in a temple where photos of the Goddess Durga, Goddess Kali and Lord Hanuman were found.

As any Hindu would know, the three deities are powerful gods who serve as protectors of humanity, this earthly realm and all living beings. It defies thought that this man, his relatives and the so called holy man performed a prayer on sanctified ground with the intention of spilling the blood of a child.

But that is exactly what they did, his screams of terror must have echoed through those very temple walls when he was slaughtered in the field nearby. The stench from his corpse that lay hidden in a bush for three days before it was found, must have pervaded the walls of the shrine too.

In the defence of this man, some might say it was a poor village of lower caste folk, their head filled with superstitious beliefs, where the words  of shamans hold sway, that he was desperate to save his ailing son.

But one does not need to be educated to have compassion, to be humane. Literally everyday on social media we see stories of people who have so little but give so much, simple rustic folk with big hearts.

If this man loved his son so much, he should have known how much Jivan's family would have loved him too. How crushed they would be to lose him, and in such a tragic manner too. How can any parent come to terms with the fact that their child was slaughtered as a human sacrifice.

I doubt Kodai knows the depth of love a parent would feel for their child, despite having fathered a son himself. If he had ever felt such love, he would never have raised a sickle to slit that little boy's throat.

Being illiterate and superstitious is no excuse, he was mean, selfish and cruel, intent on preserving his own progeny at the cost of pain and suffering to another.

Its not education and knowledge that makes a man great, it is compassion, whether one lives in a gilder manner or a mud hut.

Greed is also a central tenet in this story, the want and desires of men who propel them to commit inhumane acts to please unseen powers in the hopes of gaining what they want.

More on this story:
Young Nepalese boy slain in human sacrifice ritual

10-year-old boy sacrificed to cure local youth in Nawalparasi

Boy murdered in suspected human sacrifice

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Animal Welfare Bill 2015, Malaysia gets tough with abusers

June 17, 2015 marked a momentous day for Malaysia as the Animal Welfare Bill 2015 was passed by the Dewan Rakyat. It proved to be one of those rare bills that garnered support from both sides of the political divide.

Animal lovers who were following the live debate on RTM1, spoke of how refreshing it was to see both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat MPs eloquently debate and support the new act. 

In the words of SPCA's Selangor patron Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye - "While politics may divide us, let this new Animal Welfare Act unite us."

One of the key points of the act is harsher penalties for animal abuse - a minimum fine of RM20,000 and a maximum of RM100,000 or a jail term of up to three years or both, a far more severe penalty than the RM200 animal abusers had to pay under the Animal Act 1953.

As netizens celebrated the passing of the bill seen as a huge step forward in tackling cases of animal abuse and neglect, many people expressed scepticism on whether this new act would serve to effectively protect and grant dignity to the voiceless ones.

I must say that they do have a valid point, barely two days after the passing of the bill, an independent animal rescuer posted on Facebook about the sad plight of a malnourished stray cat which she had brought to a veterinary hospital in Petaling Jaya.

According to her post, the cat was in bad shape and needed to be boarded for treatment, but the vet told her that a deposit of RM1,000 was required for the boarding of stray cats and dogs. The rescuer had no choice but to take the sick cat home and feed her glucose water through a syringe, sadly the cat did not make it through the night, denied the expert medical attention she was severely in need of.

If even those whose job involves caring for animals can act in such a manner, what more the general public?

The hospital in question is one of two 24-hour veterinary hospitals in the Klang Valley, what if a stray cat or dog meets with an accident and is brought in by a good samaritan, would the hospital demand a huge deposit before accepting the animal for boarding? Why the discrimination against strays? 

Though the passing of the bill was welcomed by animal activists, animal lovers and lawmakers, for many people out there it makes no difference, they will continue keeping their dogs on a leash 24/7, dumping it when they no longer want it, leave home for weeks without providing food or water for a pet confined within their compound.

But little do they know that these are all acts of non-physical abuse as defined under the new act, an extremely thorough piece of legislation which puts a huge emphasis on responsible pet ownership.

Non-physical abuse under the act is defined as - confining animals in an area that restricts their natural movement, abandoning, allowing the act of cruelty against an animal by its owner, depriving a pet of food and water.

The public has a huge role to play in ensuring that owners like these face the music, for the law can only serve its purpose when cases such as these are reported with supporting evidence, otherwise, law or no law, the cycle of abuse and neglect will continue.

Tackling the haters

Many cases of cruelty have been perpetuated by people who say they "fear" an animal. Never mind that their supposed fear might seem ridiculous in the face of an animal who itself might be in fear and in need of protection.

Fear was the reason given by the man who shot two arrows at Brianna, an old and partially blind Rottweiler who stood outside his home looking lost. The incident which happened on May 13, 2014, soon went viral on social media, angering netizens.

Caught in a firestorm, the man an army personnel, said he was trying to protect his children and family, an explanation that certainly makes no sense, despite about 100 police reports being lodged against him and over 94,047 online signatures on a petition urging for justice for Brianna, no action was taken against the man.

Brianna who was already ill and weak at the time of her rescue, succumbed to tick fever at a clinic in Subang Jaya where she was being treated on May 16, 2014. It is hoped that under this new law, dogs who were abused like Brianna would finally get justice.

Fear and hate has also led to many innocent animals being poisoned, especially stray dogs who have the misfortune of being in non-canine friendly neighbourhoods. In late August 2014, ten dogs who lived in a car park near the RHB building at Jalan Tun Razak died after consuming poisoned meat.

According to the feeders who took care of the dogs, some people who used the car park were unhappy with the dogs roaming around and had lodged a complaint with DBKL, despite the feeders pleading for time to remove the dogs, they were found dead soon after.

Also in 2014, several independent feeders found strays under their care in residential neighbourhoods poisoned to death. Tainted meat was found near the carcasses of the dogs.

Poisoning continues to be a huge issue and this has been rightfully addressed under the new law. Cruelty offences listed under the act includes poisoning, beating, mutilating.

However in order for the grievous offence of poisoning to be addressed, those who discover such acts must take the right action.

Don't just take pictures of the dead dogs and cats and upload it on social media. Lodge a police report, notify the SPCA and the Veterinary Services Department. For the authorities to take action, you must furnish them with the evidence.

Many people are unaware of this, but once you notify the Veterinary Services Department, they will come and investigate the crime scene to collect evidence - the most important evidence being the carcass of the animal for the purpose of conducting a post-mortem and the tainted meat which will be analysed to determine if it contains traces of poison.

So don't rush to bury the animal and throw away any piece of meat found near them, in many past cases of poisoning, these valuable pieces of evidence was disposed off without a thought. For this new law to be effective in convicting abusers, it needs to be backed up with solid evidence.

Be their voice

During the tabling of the bill in Parliament, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he hoped the law would increase public awareness on the importance of animal welfare, which in turn would lead to more people coming forward to lodge reports with solid evidence and be willing to serve as prosecution witnesses in court.

The minister raises a very valid point here, the law can have no bite without public support.

If we choose to turn away from an animal in need or think that an animal who dies from abuse deserves no justice, then no matter how severe the penalty under the law, they will never get the justice they deserve.

Law enforcement can no longer turn a blind eye

In the past many people who have borne witness to animal cruelty have lodged police reports, only to have the police tell them that nothing can be done anyway. Which pretty much translates to - we will not investigate this case.

This is precisely what happened when Azra Azreen found a stray cat whom she had cared for since it was a kitten, tied up with a string and disemboweled in a field near her house in Seberang Prai sometime last November.

The cat who was two-years-old at the time of her death, was named Socky. Despite meeting such a cruel end, Socky never got the justice she deserved. 

When Azra when to the Seberang Prai police station to lodge a report, she was told that nothing could be done even if she had a witness. Now how strange is that?

Once this new bill has been gazetted as law, I doubt law enforcement personnel can dissuade people from lodging reports on cases of abuse, especially if the evidence is staring them in the face.

Tough justice

In August of 2012, it was reported that a shop assistant was sentenced to a one month jail term by the Kuching magistrate's court for smashing five puppies to death on a concrete floor behind a shop lot on July 18 the same year.

According to the facts of the case, Kumbang Jali, 55, became enraged when the mother dog tried to bite him when he went to throw rubbish behind the shop.

In a brutal act of revenge, he chased the mother dog away with a stick and smashed her puppies to death.

Animal lovers nationwide expressed outrage at how lightly he got off with a mere slap on the wrist jail sentence, but the maximum penalty provided under the section was a three month jail term or an RM500 fine.

With public awareness, supporting evidence, swift enforcement and harsher penalties under the new act, it is hoped that people like Kumbang Jali will not get away so lightly for what he did to five innocent young lives.

Education equals compassion

Besides harsher penalties for abusers, this new law also seeks to educate and create awareness on the importance of protecting the welfare of animals to prevent incidences of cruelty and neglect.

The act aims to promote this awareness through the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board.

The board will work closely with the Education Ministry to educate school children on animal welfare. Something which many animal activists say is lacking in our current education system.

Many cases of cruelty against animals are perpetuated by young children - tying animals up, drowning kittens and puppies, throwing stones and many other horrific forms of abuse which goes unaddressed.

Though we still have a long way to go, it is hoped that this new law will give our voiceless friends the protection, care and justice that they deserve. 

Tough new law against animal abuse

Animal abusers to face jail time, RM100,000 fine under new law

Animal Welfare Bill passed in Dewan Rakyat

Parliament passes Animal Welfare Bill

Animal Welfare Bill 2015 brings more bite in tackling abuse, cruelty

Animal Welfare Act will finally see the light of day

Politics may divide us, this new bill will unite us

Nine points about Malaysia's new Animal Welfare Bill

Sunday, March 22, 2015

India's Daughter: The march against sexual persecution

When I was a child, way before I entered primary one, I knew what rape was, courtesy of Tamil and Hindi movies. Literally every movie had at least one rape or attempted rape scene. What were these scenes for? To entertain the audience? Though I believe that one who is entertained by such scenes, must be of a perverse nature, and if these scenes are of mass appeal, then are the masses perverts??

In most of these movies, as a result of the rape, the woman would either commit suicide or live a life of shame thereafter. If she was lucky, the rapist would decide to marry her or someone would prevail upon the rapist to marry her.

I can't ever recall a scene where a police report was lodged against the said rapist, he being sent to prison for his crime and being whipped for it, his life and future destroyed. Nope, never. After committing the crime, he would gloat about it as the victim weeped piteously of a life destroyed.

Yup the message put across in such movies was a dysfunctional one, rape destroys the life of a woman, she is better of dead. The message put across was a frightening one indeed, you can be everything - modern, gorgeous, independent, intelligent, have a good education and career - but if you are raped, your become nothing, your whole life is destroyed.

I use to wonder, is it not depressing to live in such a culture, with rape being the veritable sword of Damocles hanging over the head of all women. But people used to say: "Ah that is how it is, a woman's virtue etc, etc." But I used to wonder, in that case, why not deal more firmly with such men, get tough with rape, the culture of objectifying women.

The subcontinent rose, and with it the world

India as with most countries in a pre-social media world was defined by the great men who walked her earth and supposedly performed great feats. Even a novice of history who is not Indian in origin would know of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence, but I doubt that even Gandhi the great Mahatma would have envisioned when he embarked on the historic Salt March in 1930, that a century later, a free India would bring the nation to its knees, as women and men marched in solidarity with a young woman called Jyoti Singh.

In those tense days, in that moment, she became India's daughter. Her brief yet promising life, the brutal violence she suffered on the night of Dec 16, 2012, her struggle to live despite her life threatening injuries, lit a spark, India and the world had had enough.

To be honest, I wish we were as angry about rape before her, throughout history, be it in India or elsewhere, scores of women and children have fallen victim to the brutality of rape. But angry public protests demanding justice, calling for an end to rape, demanding for better protection for women, who would have thought this would have been possible previously.

So the girl aptly named Jyoti, became a torchbearer for the fight against rape. As Jyoti's parents Asha and Badri Singh said in Leslee Udwin's documentary "India's Daughter",

The full documentary

"Jyoti means light. We were given a gift of light and happiness when she was borne," said Asha.

Badri takes this a step further and says:

"Jyoti has become a symbol. In death she has lit such a torch not only in this country, but throughout the whole world. But at the same time, she posed a question. What is the meaning of a woman? How is she looked upon by society today? And I wish that whatever darkness there is in this world should be dispelled by this light."

It's been two years now, the degree of sexual violence against women in India and the world at large has not abated one bit, but some things have changed for sure, and there's no turning back. For one women have become more assertive in fighting off and shaming sexual predators. And victim blaming is no longer tolerated.

Which is why the interview with convicted rapist and murderer Mukesh Singh caused such a stir. What he said is not surprising at all and cannot be passed off as the views of an uneducated, blue-collar type. For there are many Mukesh types out there - those convicted for sexual crimes and those who have escaped punishment.

But what Mukesh said in the BCC interview drives home some very pertinent points:

  • Rapists don't repent for their crimes. No matter how severe the punishment meted out. Hence the high number of repeat offenders.

  • Rapists have a low and twisted view of women which they are good at justifying.

  • They see no harm in forcing themselves on a woman, give the opportunity. As Mukesh said, if she had cooperated, they would have done her and dropped her off (Rapists have been doing this for a long time now, doing and dropping off women). It is a sense of entitlement which makes them very dangerous members of society.

  • They will reason why the woman or child deserved to be raped. In Jyoti's case she was out at night with a man not related to her. I wonder what reasoning the rapists of the elderly nun in Kolkata would proffer as an excuse? she was a Christian, and they Hindu perhaps??

It is for these very reasons that I firmly believe that the death penalty should be meted out for the very act of rape itself, not because the victim dies from it, or is murdered by the rapist.

Oh but of course I remember Mukesh's warning, that the death penalty for rapists would make things dangerous for women, but the world is already a very dangerous place for women, too dangerous. Because we continue to allow rapists and would be rapists to live.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Jais, rape, and the tudung

Early this month, Jais delivered a highly controversial sermon titled: "Aurat: Antara Kebebasan dan Maruah Diri” (Aurat: Between freedom and self dignity).

The gist of the sermon is this:

Muslim women should cover up their "aurat" to prevent “being harassed physically or mentally... so as to prevent false accusations (fitnah),  evil gazes (pandangan yang jahat) and bad incidents from taking place (perkara yang buruk berlaku)... Negative incidents such as rape, illicit sex, and incest (rogol, zina, sumbang mahram) can be avoided.

[ Excerpt from Malaysiakini ]

More of the sermon at this link:

The sermon was deemed insensitive by many, and the tide of anger only worsened when DAP's Penang Exco member Chong Eng was questioned by police over her statement which was deemed critical of the sermon.

Chong however pointed out that she was not stirring the religious cauldron by questioning the practice of "tutup aurat", but merely pointing out the obvious - rape and incest do not correlate to the way a woman, child, toddler, baby is attired. I am including children, because many victims of sexual abuse are children. Way too many for comfort!

An interesting article in the Malaysian Insider reinforces this point. I shall take the liberty of quoting the pertinent excerpts here.

" Prominent rape cases in the past have shown that the victims were not dressed scantily.
One high-profile case in 2000 involved 24-year-old engineer Noor Suzaily Mukhtar. She was raped and killed by the driver of the bus she was on. She was wearing a long skirt and a tudung (headscarf), which the rapist used to strangle her.
Nurul Huda Ghani, 10, was kidnapped, gang raped, sodomised and strangled to death in 2004. Her naked body was found in the guardhouse of a Tenaga Nasional Berhad substation in Kampung Pekajang, in Johor Baru.
 Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, 8, was kidnapped, sodomised and killed in 2007. She was stuffed in a sports bag and left outside a shoplot in Petaling Jaya."
As Malaysians rally to Chong's defence, there's a deafening silence, is she the only prominent politician to speak up? We have more of them don't we......?? Prominent women politicians I mean. Where are the vocal voices of activism? Where are our feminists?

Now I am not writing this post to vent against Jais. After all, negativity breeds more of that wasteful energy which we have little need for in what is already a very highly charged environment, what with everybody's favourite freedom fighter aka "Bapa Reformasi" Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim being hauled back to Sungai Buloh prison and all.

I did some thinking, and I believe there's always room for improvement, whether one is a mere human or part of the patriarchal religious order like Jais. 
For future sermons, for indeed there shall be more, perhaps Jais could turn the spotlight on the perpetrators instead.
Those in the earlier sermon which they referred to as "lelaki yang tidah bermaruah dan bermoral".
Perhaps Jais could educate them on:

1. Controlling their sexual urges.

2. To have respect for women - singles, lesbians, married women, the sisters, mothers and daughters of others. For would they like it if other men viewed women close to them with lust?? Say their mothers for instance?
3. Not to view babies, toddlers and children with lust, starting with their own! For I believe no religious doctrine says you can enjoy the fruit of your creation - your daughters and your sons.
4. Not to view women as their inferiors, some of the greatest scholars of Islam were women, would you call them inferior?? Unfortunately not much has been written of their great scholarly feats. A conspiracy of the patriarchy I believe.
5.To put the fear of God, heaven and the terrors of hell into them. 
6. This  type of "lelaki" are not members of a select club, you can't go looking for them to preach, it is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, they are evenly spread out and assimilated into society, much to our woe, so it is time for Jais and Jakim to embark on public sermons to educate men not to be sexual demons.
Now this brings us to the question of why no one thought of sermons attacking the conduct of sex maniacs. The problem lies in the fact that despite this being the 21st century, religion, be it Islam or the other major world religions, are still dominated by the patriarchy. 
Just like we need women in politics and the corporate world to shatter the glass ceiling for the rest of us, this quest for equality is sorely lacking in the religious domain.
So despite this modern progressive century that we live in, we are still being told to cover up, behave, accede to male authority - from father to husband, breed to perpetuate the cycle of human creation, to be moral to the extent of suppressing individuality, and because the patriarchy serve as the authors of religious materials, the voices of the brave women of religion are obliterated with only a scarce mention. Not enough is known to inspire future generations of women religious leaders.
More on Jais, rape and the tudung in the following publications.