The Women’s Centre for Change, Penang (WCC) is shocked and appalled at the news of the attack on 18-year-old T Nhaveen, who was allegedly beaten, sodomised and burned by a group of youths outside a burger shop in Penang a few days ago.
According to media reports, Nhaveen is now in a coma in the intensive care unit of the Penang Hospital and five suspects aged 16 to 18 have been arrested by the police and remanded.
News of this horrific attack comes less than two weeks after the death of 21-year-old Malaysian National Defence University student Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, who was allegedly tortured for days (ie he was allegedly bound, beaten and burned with an iron) by his varsity mates. In this case, according to media reports, 36 students were arrested and remanded pending investigation.
The WCC joins in the public condemnation and calls for a thorough investigation into the attacks on these young men.
Meanwhile, there is a need for us to ask ourselves how it is possible that some young men in our society can demonstrate such levels of cruelty towards and inflict such pain on another person.
That many of the suspects arrested are young is extremely worrying. We have to ask ourselves what is so wrong with our society that we have young people who can act without an iota of compassion or conscience.
What values have these young people been taught that they do not respect the life of another human being? What fuels such aggression? Does it come from being disenfranchised and therefore needing to show power and control? Does it come from feeling morally superior over another and hence feeling entitled to commit an act of violence? Does it stem from a lack of empathy?
As a society, we have a duty to understand and address such behaviour to halt its repetition. While acts of violence can be committed by anyone and the causes of violent behaviour can be complex, violence has also been linked to certain concepts of masculinity which promote dominance and aggression.
Among the many programmes the WCC conducts to prevent or stop violence in homes and society, there is one for teenage boys which helps them to explore and deconstruct some of the concepts linked to masculinity, for example use of violence and aggression to assert themselves or to settle disputes. Limited as this may be, it is really necessary and yet it has been an uphill task to get people to see the need to work with boys.
Nurturing respect for others and a culture of non-violence should begin at home and be reinforced in schools and the community. The WCC urges both government and non-government agencies that have access to youth to implement programmes towards this end.
We trust the police will be thorough and efficient in their investigations and that the perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes.
In the meantime, our hearts go out to the families of both these young men.
Prema Deveraj is the programme consultant for the Women’s Centre for Change, Penang.