Malaysian Law defines rape as sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or against her will. Meanwhile, sex with a girl below 16 years of age is statutory rape, regardless of whether she consents to it or not. Fundamentally, rape is sex without consent, or sex with a person who is unable to consent.
Sexual assault is any sexual contact without consent. Malaysian law doesn’t explicitly define sexual assault, however, the law criminalises various forms of sexual assault. This includes “outrage of modesty” (molestation), penetration of the anus or vagina with an object without the person’s consent, among others.
The definition of rape and sexual assault varies according to country and jurisdiction. The United States Department of Justice, for example, defines rape as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Consent is the presence of a YES, not the absence of a no.
Consent can also be understood as F-R-I-E-S:
- Freely-given: A ‘YES’ that is freely given. This means that consent given is voluntary; it is NOT given out of fear, intimidation, coercion, or fraud. You should not feel pressured to engage in any sexual activity.
- Reversible: You can change your mind at any moment, even if you’re in the middle of a sexual act.
- Informed: You should understand what you’re consenting to, and also its implications. If your partner is not being truthful with you, for example, if he agreed to use a condom but did not, then this is not consent.
- Enthusiastic: You should actually want to engage in a sexual activity, and not because you are expected to.
- Specific: If you have consented to a specific sexual act, this does not mean you have also consented to other sexual acts.
The ‘What is Consent’ section was adapted from: Planned Parenthood, United States of America, ‘Sexual Consent’ <https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-and-relationships/sexual-consent>
Here are some factors that can affect a person’s ability to give consent. If you are initiating sex with someone, you must ensure that they are able to give consent.
- In Malaysia, the age of consent is 16 for girls. If a girl is below 16, she cannot legally consent to sex.
- If a person is intoxicated or unconscious, they cannot give consent. Signs that a person is intoxicated may include:
- Stumbling or falling down
- Unable to stand or walk on their own
- Has slurred speech or they are not communicating clearly
- Cannot focus their eyes or is confused about what is happening around them
- Has urinated, defecated, or vomited on themselves or around them
- Is sleeping or unconscious
- If you are in a position of authority over someone — for example, you are a superior at work, a teacher or lecturer, or significantly older — the power imbalance can affect the person’s ability to freely consent.
- A mental disability or incapacitation can affect a person’s ability to understand and communicate consent. One’s capacity to consent depends on the specific context and the individual’s situation.
There are a lot of myths about rape and sexual assault in our society. Let’s dispel some of the common myths here.
- Myth: Rape is a result of an “over-spill” of sexual energy.
- Fact: Rape is not an impulsive crime; rape is about power and control. Both men and women can control their urges to have sex. Sexual desire is not a justification for rape.
- Myth: Women are likely to be raped by strangers.
- Fact: A high percentage of rapists are actually acquaintances, “friends” and relative. Only an estimated 10% of rapes are committed by strangers. Rape commonly occurs in places where the survivors felt were safe places, such as their homes and workplaces.
- Myth: Rape happens to women who wear revealing clothes.
- Fact: Women who wear “revealing” clothes are NOT inviting rape. Rape can happen even to women who wear “modest” clothing. Women are not responsible for rapists’ behaviour.
- Myth: Someone who is intoxicated deserves it when the rape occurs.
- Fact: When someone is intoxicated, they cannot give consent. Hence, having sex with an intoxicated or unconscious person is rape. Ultimately, no one “deserves” to be raped.
- Myth: Men are not rape victims.
- Fact: While the majority of the rape survivors are women, men can also be rape survivors. Social stigma can make it harder for men to report rape.
- Myth: People lie about getting raped because they want attention.
- Fact: It is rare that someone lies about getting raped. The truth is that the majority of rape survivors choose not to make a police report because of the social stigma and their own circumstances.
Indiana University, ‘Stop Sexual Violence’ <http://stopsexualviolence.iu.edu/policies-terms/consent.html>
Planned Parenthood, ‘Understanding consent is as easy as FRIES’ <http://plannedparenthood.tumblr.com/post/148506806862/understanding-consent-is-as-easy-as-fries-consent>