Friday, May 21, 2010

Criminalising consensual sex kills newborns

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Sorry, but that's the truth. And not only babies either, but young people as well.

You may think sex outside of marriage is a sin, and that's your prerogative. You're certainly not alone in this belief - many religions and cultures will agree with you.

Fine, but it seems to me that where there is no victim, the punishment for sin should be up to God, not Man.

If you criminalise the victimless act of sexual congress between consenting adults/young people, you have a problem. And if you don't believe me, read the newspapers here in Malaysia. Not a week passes without someone dying because of this senseless law and its application, and it's usually the young and very often the newborn.

As a journalist in The New Straits Times said yesterday: "Bloody bundled babies have been found everywhere, on the steps of mosques and churches, in garbage bins, the town dump, in buses, orchards and public toilets - dead, alive; with or without their umbilical cords, heads or limbs; riddled with mosquito and ant bites, crushed, mutilated or burnt beyond recognition."

And this: "In his haste to escape punishment from religious officers, a college student who was alone with his girlfriend plunged to his death from the fifth floor of an apartment."
(Read Marina Mahathir's comment here.)

If you are one of those who are governed by this law (and only half the people in Malaysia are), then you can be humiliated, arrested, charged, fined, imprisoned and/or caned for having sex with someone not your spouse. So when a righteous busybody (who never, ever of course commits anything at all that looks like a sin) calls up the religious police, who then start pounding on and/or breaking down doors, young people panic.

It seems every week or two, someone falls to their death trying to escape from the scene of their dreadful crime - sex with someone they aren't married to. Young people mostly, who have succumbed to the most natural drive of all. Their hormones tell them one thing, their religion/culture tells them they mustn't. And faced with shame, imprisonment and whipping, some of them take risks - and die. It saddens me. Given a chance, they probably would have grown up to be useful, considerate God-fearing members of their community. But they didn't get a second chance.

Worse still is what happens when a young girl finds herself pregnant. In fear of the unpleasant legal consequences, she hides the pregnancy, thereby damaging the health of her child, then gives birth in secret (and yes, sometimes either she or the baby dies as a consequence), and then in her confusion and terror, kills or abandons the newborn. Sometimes the baby is found in time (usually covered in ants, and mosquito bites). Sometimes not.

Babies die because men decide to make a crime of the initial victimless sin.

And this is somehow a good thing? This law obviously doesn't deter the sinners, that's obvious from the number of cases. So where's the benefit? Maybe someone can explain it to the baby that died in some shed somewhere...because I sure don't get it.

Of course, Malaysians look for solutions. Let's have places where pregnant mothers can go, let's have places where they can take their newborns: all good ideas. I doubt they will make as much difference as these good people hope, because it will bring the young people who have transgressed to the attention of the law. So these places become places, not of sanctuary, but of identification and ultimately punishment. And anyone protecting the girls who ask for sanctuary could be charged with obstruction if they don't disclose names.

Can we have more Malaysians suggesting out aloud that maybe we should be looking at the law and seeing if it performs what might be its purpose: halting extra-marital sex - and if it doesn't, then dare to suggest it be scrapped?

Of course, if its aim is killing/harming babies, then I guess it's doing just fine. Keep it going, and we'll rid the world of a few more unwanted kids.
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4 comments:

Jo said...

That is the major problem with religion of all kinds, its interpretation by man (and I use man in its true sense here). Whether one is religious or not, a lot of things practiced in the name of religion cannot be found in the tenets of the faith. I agree, this particular law should be scrapped, but will it be?

Imagine me said...

This is truly shocking. I have never been able to understand why the children have to suffer for their parent's choices but in the situation you describe the law is causing just that. It reminds me of when we were in our teens and unmarried pregnant girls were sent away or put in homes and their babies forcibly removed or, even worse, sent to backyard abortionists where both might die. At least the babies were usually put up for adoption but the girls were left to deal with societal and familial rejection - and that wasn't even religion based. Thank heavens those days are past here and I hope someone will see the light in Malaysia - and soon.

BTW back in the 70s an unmarried friend of mine refused to give up her child despite extreme pressure. She later married another man and they brought the little girl up together. That child is now a lovely, productive member of society. What a waste of a life it would have been if she had been born under the current law in Malaysia.

Jo said...

I remember those days very well Imagine Me, but in some places I don't think it has changed all that much which is why we get babies in trash bags, left at hospitals, etc. etc.

Glenda Larke said...

At least there are now Malaysians working on this problem, but societal changes are complex, especially when back by religious perceptions.