Systematic sexual abuse by loggers continues in Sarawak ?
The Penan Support Group (PSG), a coalition of 36 NGOs, released an intricately researched report in Parliament today, describing the distressing ordeals of the Penan women and their communities.
The hard-hitting report said the sexual crimes are “allowed to flourish” because of widespread poverty, deprivation of land rights, citizenship and basic services, as well as lack of respect for rural communities, their autonomy and their calls for justice.
The PSG also highlighted the failure of authorities to respond to the shocking findings of a national ministerial task force.
The task force report, initially kept under wraps by the cabinet, was finally made public last September by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, after coming under pressure from PKR Women's chief Zuraida Kamaruddin.
The ministry's task force had confirmed eight instances of loggers sexually abusing Penan girls and women, including a 10-year-old schoolgirl.
The PSG's own fact-finding mission ensued after the police reneged on a promise to investigate the sexual attacks by loggers, claiming a lack of funds.
The PSG visited Long Lamam, Long Ajeng and Long Mobui, over a week last November, and heard testimonies from members of 13 Penan communities gathered there, from Middle and Upper Baram.
The seven sexual abuse survivors interviewed by the PSG had never been documented previously. The youngest said she was only 14 when she was attacked. These seven women are further additions to the eight girls and women reported by the ministry's national task force.
The rapes of the Penan have drawn international condemnation, but have been brushed off by state ministers.
Chief Minister Taib Mahmud warned angrily, “check your information or you will be suspected by the decent people of Sarawak of trying to sabotage us”.
Land Development Minister James Masing told the BBC that “the Penan are very good story-tellers” and suggested that the Penan are promiscuous at a young age.
Daud Abdul Rahman, a deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs, was more concise: “To me, the reports of the sexual abuse of Penans are not true”.
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