Government to investigate sexual abuse claims

October 2, 2008

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The Malaysian government has said it will investigate allegations by members of the Penan tribe of Sarawak that logging company workers are routinely sexually abusing Penan women, including schoolgirls.

The Malaysian Minister for Women, Family and Community Development has said that her ministry will meet with the deputy chief minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, to obtain more information on the allegations. But Jabu last week dismissed the claims as baseless.

The Penan’s accusations against the loggers were first publicised by the organisation Bruno Manser Fund, and Survival and Malaysian groups joined its calls for an investigation.

The Penan, who rely on Sarawak’s rainforests for their survival, have spent more than twenty years trying to stop logging companies destroying their land. Penan women have accused loggers working for the Malaysian companies Samling and Interhill of harassing and raping them.

‘I want to make it known that we are being sexually abused by the timber company workers on a regular basis’, one woman said.

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