A court in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo island ruled last week there was “no necessity to proceed further with this case” following evidence that the two were married, the Borneo Post news website reported.
The victim, now 15, was allegedly raped twice by Ahmad Syukri Yusuf, in his twenties, last year. Rape in Malaysia carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison and whipping.
Activists say such cases are not uncommon in the conservative Muslim-majority country, where sometimes victims’ families would rather a girl marry her rapist instead of her name being tarnished in court.
But this loophole in the system can give the wrong signal to others that there are no serious consequences for rape, they say.
In 2013, a man who raped a 12-year-old girl avoided prison after he married her, provoking an outcry among rights groups. However, the following year a high court sentenced the father-of-four to 12 years in jail.
Opposition politician Teo Nie Ching also criticised the latest court ruling.
“This is not the first time that a rapist [has been] allowed to marry his underage victim, and this is surely not going to be the last,” she was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news website.