In a first, woman crowdfunds Malaysian sex assault case

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 3 February 2021 14:20 GMT

Women wearing protective masks walk past a mural, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

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Women's rights advocates say the case represents a wider problem of the obstacles rape survivors face in getting justice

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Mongolian woman has raised thousands of dollars in crowdfunding to mount a sexual assault case against a former policeman in a first for Malaysia, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

Women's rights groups have followed the case closely, saying victims of assault should not have to fall back on fundraising if they lack the money to pursue justice through the courts.

The ex-policeman has denied the charges.

Nandine-Erdene Khoskhulug, 21, last month appealed for 46,500 ringgit ($11,500) to have her day in court.

She made the appeal after her case was struck out in January for lack of a 70,000-ringgit court deposit.

In less than two week, she has raised more than $12,000, according to her lawyer, so can now refile her civil case against the former police inspector, seeking unspecified damages for alleged sexual assault and unlawful detention.

"The response is overwhelming," her lawyer Mathew Thomas Philip told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

"I am really surprised... As far as I know, this would be the first case," he said.

Philip plans to file the action next month.

The lawyer said Khoskhulug, who returned to Mongolia at the end of 2020, was heartened by the speedy show of support.

"When I first saw her at the police station, she was on the verge of giving up," he said. "With the support people have given her, the view has changed and she wants to be vindicated."

A law firm representing the former policeman, Hazrul Hizham Ghazali, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 30-year-old was charged with multiple counts of rape and outrage of modesty last year in a separate criminal trial.

Hazrul, then a policeman, allegedly raped Khoskhulug and another Mongolian woman after stopping them at a roadblock and took them to a hotel. He has denied all charges.

Women's rights advocates said the deposit rule revealed the wider problems rape survivors face in pursuing justice.

"It signals to other rape victims that one must have at least 70,000 ringgit in their bank accounts to successfully file a suit against their rapists," opposition politicians Maria Chin Abdullah and Lim Yi Wei said in a joint statement.

Rape is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and caning under Malaysia's laws.

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($1 = 4.0490 ringgit) (Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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