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Repeal Section 498, groups say

Corrected on 9 Nov 2009 at 6.45pm

Corrected on 23 Nov 2009 at 12.10pm

PETALING JAYA, 9 Nov 2009: (Corrected) Four women’s groups want the government to abolish Section 498 of the Penal Code, which criminalises the “enticing” of married women for “illicit intercourse”.

Women’s Aid Organisation president Meera Samanther said the law was flawed because “it assumes women are incapable of making decisions, or that they have no right to do so because they make the wrong ones.”

“What forms the basis of the offence is the loss of a husband’s control over his wife. This provision is a relic of colonial chauvinism which regarded wives as property of husbands,” she said today at a press conference.

“It implies that women are incapable of making decisions for themselves, be it right or wrong, that they can be so easily lured away by a third party,” Meera said.


Meera (right) and other JAG members holding copies of the Penal Code

The other women’s groups renewing its call today for Section 498 to be abolished were the All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower) and Sisters in Islam (SIS).

Section 498 states that whoever “entices away” a married woman from her husband or the person responsible for her for the purpose of “illicit intercourse” shall be imprisoned up to two years or fined or both.

Section 498 was recently invoked by the husband of celebrity Daphne Iking, Ryan Chong. Chong has accused corporate figure Choy Khin Ming of “enticing” his wife. The case is scheduled to be heard on 9 and 10 Dec in the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court.

Meera said Section 498 also contravenes the guarantee of equality between men and women under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, and Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“We believe that every woman has the right to make decisions over her own body, which [Section 498] clearly denies. We also believe that consensual intimate relationships between adults should not be the state’s concern,” she added.

She also stressed that it was the prerogative of married couples to decide if and when a marriage should continue.

(Corrected) This is the second time a call has been made for Section 498 to be abolished. In 2005, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) , comprising WAO, Awam, Empower, SIS and the Women’s Centre for Change submitted memoranda to the government to no avail.


Hishammuddin (File pic courtesy
of theSun)
In October this year, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, in a written answer in Parliament, said Section 498 would stay, adding that only one isolated case was reported last year.

(Corrected) Meera said to date, there have been five reported cases, not including Iking’s. Out of these five earlier cases, three were thrown out on technical grounds.

Meera stressed, however, that regardless of the number of cases, Section 498 was still flawed.

(Corrected) The four women’s groups were making the call for the repeal of Section 498 in solidarity with the One Day One Struggle global campaign, organised by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies.

The campaign is galvanising hundreds in countries such as Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt and Bangladesh to protest against violations based on sexuality, including honour killings and female genital mutilation.

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