Brunei Rape Laws Tightened


Rape laws tightened
July 29, 2017

| Fadley Faisal |

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to the Penal Code (Amendment) Order 2017 whereby amendments have been made to the offences of rape and unnatural offences contained within the Penal Code, Chapter 22, the Attorney General’s Chambers said in a press statement yesterday.

As per the amendments under Section 375, the definition of rape includes even situations where a woman consents to sexual intercourse with a man who is in a position of trust or authority towards the woman or is a person with whom the woman is in a relationship of dependency. The amendments also provide that the defence of consent cannot be used by any accused person if the sexual intercourse is committed under those circumstances.

The current punishment for the offence of rape under Section 376 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 30 years and whipping with minimum eight years’ imprisonment and 12 whipping for certain aggravated forms of rape.

The amendments now provide for an increased minimum punishment of 10 years’ imprisonment and 12 whippings where an offender in order to commit or to facilitate the commission of an offence of rape against a woman voluntarily causes hurt to her or to any other person or puts her in fear of death or hurt to herself or any other person, or an offender commits rape against a woman under 14 years of age, or an offender commits rape when he is in a position of trust or authority towards a woman or is a person with whom the woman is in a relationship of dependency.

Punishments are also further enhanced in circumstances involving the aggravated rape of females under 14 years of age where the offender voluntarily causes hurt to her or to any other person, or puts her in fear of death or hurt to herself or any other person, or where the offender is in a position of trust or authority towards her or is a person with whom she is in a relationship of dependency. In such cases, the law now provides for an enhanced punishment of imprisonment for a term not less than 15 years and not less than 12 whipping.

The Penal Code (Amendment) Order 2017 also imposes minimum sentences for a repeat rape offender. In such cases, a second or subsequent conviction will attract a punishment of not less than 20 years and not more than 50 years and not less than 20 strokes of the cane.

In addition to the modifications of the punishment tariffs for the offence of rape, punishments under Section 377 of the Penal Code which deals with unnatural offences has also been amended where any offender who commits an offence of sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall now be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 years and whipping.

The previous maximum punishment under this section was a term of imprisonment extending to 10 years and with fine.

Similar to the tariff under the rape offence, offences under this section are further enhanced to imprisonment for a term not less than 15 years and whipping with not less than 12 strokes where such an offence is committed on a person under the age of 14 years.

In the case of a repeat offender for unnatural offences, the law now provides for a minimum punishment of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum of 50 years imprisonment and 20 whipping.

The new amendments to the Penal Code are drafted upon the initiative of the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Royal Brunei Police Force under the Prime Minister’s Office for strengthening the laws of Brunei Darussalam to further protect children, young and vulnerable persons from sexual exploitation and to act as a deterrent to those willing to commit such offences.

Such legal amendments are aimed to work alongside the efforts of other stakeholder agencies and form a concerted effort by authorities in Brunei Darussalam to understand and deal with the root causes of such offences.

These measures include the need to encourage victims of sexual offences to report such matters as soon as possible in order to avoid any prolonged and systematic abuse, changes in the court process through improved procedures and technology to make it easier for victims of sexual offences to testify in court as well as victim services such as counselling in order to reduce any trauma or psychological anguish associated with being a victim of such offences.

The amendments were undertaken after careful research of the laws of neighbouring jurisdictions such as Singapore and Malaysia as well as those from the Commonwealth Jurisdiction by the Sexual Offences Review Team (SORT) under the Criminal Justice Division of the Attorney General’s Chambers which comprises officers who have considerable experience in the prosecution of sexual offences in the Courts of Brunei Darussalam and form part of the mandate of the team to review the laws pertaining to sexual offences in Brunei Darussalam.

The Penal Code (Amendment) Order 2017 came into force on July 24, 2017, corresponding to 29th of Syawal 1438 Hijrah.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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