KUALA LUMPUR: Although the innocence of children is often accepted as the face of truth, the legal system does not see them as entirely reliable witnesses.
“In the eyes of the law, there is a tendency to presume children lie,” says Voice of Children chairman Sharmila Sekaran.
Earlier this month, a 60-year-old man was acquitted of rape because the testimony of the victim, being a minor, was deemed unreliable.
Sharmila, a human rights lawyer who is trying to break the presumption, said children always want to reveal the truth.
However, she said the fear of hurting the questioner’s feelings might force a child to change the answers, adding that this barrier could be broken by play therapy.
“What we should be doing is seek help from people with experience, such as child psychologists. Through play therapy, it is possible to draw out the truth from a child,” she said.
Early Childhood Care and Education Council chairman Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng concurred.
She said play therapy was especially effective in sexual abuse cases.
“A child has limited vocabulary to describe a sexual assault. Play therapy allows children to recount their experiences using toys.
“In sexual abuse cases, we use dolls,” she said, adding that they help the child to depict what happened or point out parts of their bodies trespassed upon.
In January this year, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said more than 70% of the Child Act 2001 needed to be amended.
The Voice of Children has submitted proposed amendments to the ministry, including more transparency and restructuring child protection teams to be more children-focused.