PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has welcomed amendments to the Child Act 2001, but wants the legal age for marriage to be raised to 18.
In a press release on Monday, its chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam (pic) said that they were concerned with the omission to prohibit marriages between any persons below 18 years.
"The Commission therefore urges the Government to amend all domestic laws to raise the legal age of marriage for all to 18 years, to be in compliance with the Child Act which defines children as those below the age of 18," he said.
In general, Hasmy described amendments to the Act as "comprehensive".
He said that it showed continuous improvements in the protection of children's rights in the country and would forward its comments on the various amendments to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
"The Commission also lauds the inclusion of two representatives from amongst children in the proposed National Council for Children, which, properly implemented, will promote the involvement of children in the decision-making process in matters affecting them," he said.
He hopes that even though the child representatives are only two out of seven Council members, their views and concerns would be taken seriously, in line with Articles 12 and 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
"The Commission also hopes that the discretionary powers of the Minister to revoke the membership of the child representatives are clearly defined to avoid any misuse of the powers under Clause 4A(1) of the Bill," he said.
However, Hasmy said that the Commission was also concerned with the omission of any specific provisions on child pornography.
"At present, there are no specific penal laws in Malaysia to cover holistically the issue of child pornography.
"In the light of Malaysia's obligations under the CRC and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography 2000, the Commission urges the Government to consider introducing specific provisions under the Child Act or the Penal Code, to address the issue of child pornography," he said.
Hasmy also said that while Suhakam welcomed the substitution of whipping punishments for male children with community service, it noted that caning was not abolished in primary and secondary schools.
"While Malaysia has made notable progress since acceding to the CRC, the Commission explains that the best interests of the child must be paramount in all decisions regarding children and hopes that the Commission's recommendations will help support the efforts of the Government to promote and protect the rights of the child," he said.