In Malaysia, It’s A Crime To Be Pregnant If You Are Not Married

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On Sunday, 14th October 2018, an 18-year-old teen was found dead by her mother in Taman Kerian Permai, Parit Buntar, Perak.

The coffin bearing the body of the teen who died after giving birth in a bathroom of her home in Parit Buntar being placed into a hearse at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital mortuary in Ipoh. (NSTP/L. MANIMARAN)

The teen, who died after giving birth to a stillborn baby boy, had complained to her mother of a stomachache and constipation earlier.

It’s reported by NST that the girl had asked her mother for permission to use the master bedroom bathroom at 8.30am. According to the State Criminal Investigation Department chief Senior Assistant Commissioner, Yahya Abd Rahman, the girl’s mother went to check on her after the girl failed to come out of the bathroom 30 minutes later.

The teen replied that she was having constipation. About 10am, the mother called for her again and she replied that she was still not done using the toilet.

This went on for some time, the mother or the youngest sibling checking up on her. Each time, she would give the same answer. However, at 2pm, she did not reply at all.

At this point, the mother broke down the door to the bathroom and found the victim leaning against the wall, unconscious. She looked pale and there was blood all over the floor. The mother also saw an ‘object’ and blood in the toilet bowl

The sad thing is, none of the girl’s family members knew she pregnant. But, even if they knew that she was pregnant, more likely than not, her family members would’ve kept silent.

Why?

Well, aside from the obvious fact that Malaysian is an Asian country with Asian value – where pregnancy out of wedlock is considered a family and personal shame – there are also severe legal repercussions.

In Malaysia, it is actually a punishable crime if a woman is pregnant out of wedlock.

We know right, sounds ludicrous yet a reality

Yup, that’s right. You can actually be sentenced to jail if you get pregnant without getting hitched first.

Under Malaysia’s Syariah Law – which differs from state to state – there are provisions under their Syariah criminal enactments that spells out the punishments if a woman is found pregnant out of wedlock.

After some digging on the web, here are the states which explicitly criminalized out of wedlock pregnancies. 

  • Perak

S.50 CRIMES (SYARIAH) ENACTMENT 1992

A possible FINE no more than RM3000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 2 years or BOTH.

  • Kedah

S.16 SYARIAH CRIMINAL CODE ENACTMENT 1988

A possible FINE no more than RM3000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 2 years or BOTH.

  • Perlis

S.15 CRIMINAL OFFENCES IN THE SYARAK ENACTMENT 1991

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A possible FINE no more than RM5000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 3 years or BOTH.

  • Pahang

S.31 SYARIAH CRIMINAL OFFENCES ENACTMENT 2013

A possible FINE no more than RM5000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 3 years or WHIPPING up to 6 strokes or any COMBINATION.

  • Negeri Sembilan

S.75 SYARIAH CRIMINAL (NEGERI SEMBILAN) ENACTMENT 1992

A possible FINE no more than RM3000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 2 years or BOTH.

  • Sabah

S.79 SYARIAH CRIMINAL OFFENCES ENACTMENT 1995

A possible FINE no more than RM1000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 6 Months or BOTH.

  • Malacca

S.54 SYARIAH OFFENCES ENACTMENT (MELAKA) 1991

A possible FINE no more than RM3000 and an IMPRISONMENT term up to 2 years or BOTH.

As for other states like Wilayah Persekutuan, Johor and Terengganu; while out of wedlock pregnancy is not explicitly criminalized, the pregnancy can be used as evidence to show that the woman had sexual intercourse out of marriage.

In these states, sexual intercourse out of wedlock is a crime. So technically, by default, being pregnant is a crime as well!

You just can’t win!

However, criminalizing out of wedlock pregnancy isn’t tackling the problem!

Reality is, sexual intercourse out of wedlock is bound to happen whether we like it or not.

Criminalizing pregnancies would just drive young mothers and teenagers with unwanted pregnancies into hiding. Thus, taking crucial medical help and intervention away from them. Help that could and would save lives.

So rather than punishing women, why don’t we find a way to help them instead?

At the end of the day, a pregnancy is a gift of life. Why criminalize and stigmatize it just because of how it came about?



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