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The imposition of religious edict that, among other things, has called for gender segregation in public places, has demonised ancient cultural traditions like the Wayang Kulit and Mak Yong, and even tried to forbid female hairdressers from attending to male clients, only serves to underscore the incongruence between the sanctimonious genuflections of morality politics and the dynamics of real community life.

While religious practice in Kelantan has been traditionally conservative, it also co-existed with traditional social values and local worldviews, where women played a dominant and highly visible role in community life.

Two hundred and twenty-eight cases were filed in 2007, rising to 563 in 2008, and 656 in 2010.

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The long shadow of Puritanism Many have pointed to our poor education system as the root cause of such a despicable act as the brutal gang rape in Ketereh.

Meanwhile some religious leaders, including PAS vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, have suggested that this case simply proves the need for the implementation of law.

When the victim arrived, having persuaded a male companion to give her a ride on his motorcycle, she was brought to an abandoned house in Kampung Huta Pasir, where a group of men ambushed, raped and sodomised the schoolgirl for hours until she lost consciousness, while her male companion was forced to watch.

The victim’s female friend may have been raped as well.

All this is testifies to an overall decline in the status of women over the past few decades in Kelantan (as well as other parts of the country), and the circumscribing of women’s traditional authority in public and private space.

Needless to say, the decline in the status of women often corresponds to the rise in gender attitudes that inadvertently condone violence against women, including rape.The reign of the Four Queens was a glorious era of stability and prosperity in the Kingdom of Pattani.Siti Dewi – the heroine of Kelantan’s Wayang Kulit tradition – is one of the most admired and cherished characters, more beloved in fact than her vainglorious husband, Prince Seri Rama.Rudie finds that Kelantanese women had greater freedom, scope and authority in household and economic life in the 1960s, whereas by the late 1980s, Islamic revivalism throughout Malaysia had significantly affected gender roles in Kelantan.The rhetoric of Islamic values saw a gradual redefining of women’s duties and position in the family – including obedience to the male head of the household. Wazir Jahan Karim who asserts in her book, (customary law) provides women with avenues of freedom and participation that have been undermined by the ascendancy of Islamic orthodoxy in Malaysia in recent decades.In the mundane realm, the traditional role of women in Kelantan is one of household authority and economic power.

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