KUALA LUMPUR: Proposed laws to deal with sexual offences against children were tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic) tabled the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat at noon.
Azalina informed the House that the second and third reading of the Bill would be done during this parliamentary meeting.
Key provisions in the proposed new law include a section on child grooming, making it an offence to “sexually communicate”, or “meeting a child for sexual purposes”.
The Bill sets out to define child grooming under Section 13 as “any person who communicates by any means with a child for the intention of committing an offence under the Act”, and carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and whipping.
Meanwhile, Section 14 highlights the offence of meeting a child following grooming, which is punishable with a maximum 10-year imprisonment and whipping.
The proposed law also defines sexual assault as “both physical and non-physical”.
“A person is deemed to have sexually assaulted a child for sexual purposes if he or she touches any part of the body of the child, or makes the child touch any part of the person’s body or other person’s body, or makes a child touch any part of their own body,” the Bill states under Section 15, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and whipping.
Section 16 outlines the non-physical assault of the child to include the uttering of words, sounds or gestures that will be seen by the child, or making the child exhibit any part of his or her own body to be seen by others.
This covers the offence of making a child watch sexual acts or pornographic material, or forcing them to partake in sexual acts. Offences under this provision carry a maximum jail term of 10 years, RM20,000 fine, or both.
Under the proposed law, a child is also considered competent to provide evidence in a trial, including uncorroborated evidence, if the court permits it.
The Bill further specifies failure to report a child sexual abuse case as a punishable offence, with those found guilty being liable to a RM5,000 fine.
The sexual crimes Bill was fast-tracked following pressure from civil groups and the public to immediately enact laws that would provide greater protection to children, particularly against online grooming.
Currently, only the Child Act 2001 contains provisions against sexual exploitation and neglect of children, with its most recent amendment last year increasing jail sentences to a maximum of 20 years and RM50,000 fine for certain offences.
Last August, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the formation of a special task force to look into issues related to sexual crimes, especially child rape.
The task force led by Azalina comprised other government representatives, law enforcement officials, academics, and NGOs, who were entrusted with drafting the new law.