PETALING JAYA: MCA has congratulated The Star's R.AGE team for its "dauntless investigative journalism" and exposé on paedophiles in its Predator In My Phone series that highlighted the need for anti-grooming laws.
MCA vice-president Senator Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun (pic) praised MPs of all political leanings who had set aside their ideological differences to support the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017, which was tabled for first reading in Parliament on Tuesday.
Chew, who is also the Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, said the Bill is "long awaited" and aimed at having better safeguards against paedophilia and child sex exploitation.
"It comes at a correct time when serial paedophiles have links to Malaysia i.e. Richard Huckle, Selva Kumar and Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin," said Chew in a statement on Tuesday.
She said Malaysia's current Child Act 2001 offers protection to children and centres on the survival of the child, without covering sexual offences against minors.
Currently, sexual crimes against children fall under the ambit of the Penal Code and are not distinguished from cases where the victims are adults.
"Children are easy to manipulate or be coaxed into taking the blame, resulting in sexual exploitation of minors hardly ever being reported, much less prosecuted," she said, adding that they were "easy prey" especially when their silence could potentially be bought.
"Hence, such a specific law is important," said Chew.
The Bill also criminalises sexual grooming of a child for sexual exploitation.
"I would also like to highlight that this child sex abuse Bill is gender neutral i.e. it covers crimes against both minor girls and boys," said Chew.
Chew hopes that the Bill will gradually remove the stigma and ostracisation surrounding sexual crimes, and encourage children to come forward to lodge police reports.
She also expressed her hope that the Bill will deter the manufacturing and reduce the possession of child pornography and the occurrence of child sex exploitation.
"Likewise, it is hoped that the Bill will educate minors and adolescents against child grooming tactics by sex predators," she said.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said tabled the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.
Azalina informed the House that the second and third reading of the Bill would be done during this parliamentary meeting.
After the tabling of the Bill, more than 20 MPs gathered at the Parliament media centre in a show of support for the Bill.
The R.AGE team has been pushing for the introduction of a new law to protect children against sexual grooming since it launched its Predator In My Phone series in June last year.
Last week, R.AGE with the help of other sections in The Star, secured pledges from 115 out of the 222 MPs in the House to ensure that the new Bill would be passed.