corruption 2OCTOBER 20 ― The political attacks against Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad accusing him of having an affair with a married woman are despicable, but what is worse is the police investigation into the alleged adultery.

The police are reportedly investigating Dzulkifli under Section 498 of the Penal Code that criminalises the “enticing” of a married woman for the purposes of sex, punishable with two years’ jail, a fine or both. The colonial-era law first entered the spotlight in 2009 when a TV personality’s ex-husband accused another man of “enticing” her.

Section 498 is a sexist and outdated law that has no place in our books. It was a product of British colonialists from the sexually repressive Victorian era in the 19th century, as the same provision was reportedly found in the 1860 Indian Penal Code.

A woman’s consent is not recognised in the law that essentially treats her as chattel. The crime isn’t rape, but more like theft of a man’s property, ie. his wife.

The Law Commission of India under British rule reportedly made adultery a crime in 1860 because it believed that adultery threatened the core of the family unit. The Commission had wanted to punish only male offenders because women were already living oppressive lives.

It is unfortunate that not many people have come out to defend Dzulkifli after the video alleging that he had visited Bali with a married woman last July went viral.

However, it isn’t really surprising considering the MACC under his leadership has aggressively gone after high-ranking politicians from both Barisan Nasional and the Opposition, as well as ex-senior civil servants, since Dzulkifli’s appointment in July 2016. And it is anyone’s guess which side leaked the video.

Even if the allegations are true, there is no reason for a civil servant tasked with fighting corruption to step down. A graft buster’s (consensual) sexual behaviour has nothing to do with the job description.

Personal morality in the bedroom would only be significant if one was a religious preacher whose job was to warn believers not to commit such so-called “sins.” 

Having an affair with a married person may be “bad” behaviour, but it is no grounds for police action.

In this day and age, the State has no business meddling in our private lives. Adultery should not be criminalised, either in civil or Shariah law. Neither should oral sex and anal sex, which are considered criminal offences under Section 377A of the Penal Code (even between straight married couples), because sex is for pleasure too, not just procreation.

Not everyone believes in monogamy or in having sex only within the confines of marriage. Some married couples even engage in swinging.

People should be free to live their lives as they see fit without State intervention, as long as they do not harm anyone. 

While a spouse is likely to be emotionally hurt in an extramarital affair, it is still no reason to make adultery a crime because we should have the freedom to have sex with whoever and however we want to, as long as it is consensual.

Otherwise, we might as well lock up everyone who has ever hurt someone’s feelings. (Although that already tends to happen with the Sedition Act).

Legislating against adultery has not curbed the rising rate of divorce in Malaysia either. In 2012, Malaysia saw 56,760 divorces, equivalent to a marriage breaking down every 10 minutes.

Infidelity was reportedly among the reasons for divorce. The number of Muslim couples getting divorced increased three-fold from 20,916 in 2004 to 63,463 in 2015, while divorce cases among non-Muslims rose from 3,291 to 9,326 in the same period.

Limiting sex to the avenue of marriage is a passé idea, not just because it is absurd to require a legal document to have intercourse but also because of the assumption that everyone can find someone to marry. Not all of us can find true love.

Sex shouldn’t be equated with love either. One can have sex without being in love simply because it is a pleasurable activity. One can also have sex with someone they love, and yet not want to marry them at the time.

People’s choices in sex, love and marriage are varied. The nuclear family is no longer the only valid family structure.

The State should not be trying to force one model of behaviour onto the population; the only thing the government should be addressing in terms of sex is violent crimes like rape and sexual harassment.

Yet, we don’t have laws against sexual harassment or marital rape, and child marriage is still permitted.