PETALING JAYA: The Star’s R.AGE team has won more accolades for a job well done in taking on the extensive “Predator In My Phone” campaign that contributed to the tabling of the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017.
MCA vice-president Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun congratulated the young team for its dauntless investigative journalism and exposé on paedophiles in the country and for pushing for anti-grooming laws.
It all started in late 2015 with a story about child sexual grooming in the print edition of R.AGE. The story would later be expanded into an undercover investigation and documentary series, which has so far been viewed over 3.6 million times.
At least 112 votes are needed for a new law to be passed by Parliament.
Chew, who is Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister, also lauded the show of unity by the MPs from both sides of the political divide. They set aside their political differences in support of the Bill.
She hoped that the Bill would gradually remove the stigma and ostracism, while encouraging young victims, irrespective of gender, to lodge reports against incest, sexual molest, unnatural sex and rape, besides deterring and stopping the possession of child pornography and child sex exploitation.
“Likewise, it is hoped the Bill will educate minors and adolescents against child grooming tactics by sex predators,” she said.
“The Bill is a long-awaited one and it is an expansion to the Child Act 2001 to have better safeguards, specifically against paedophilia and child sex exploitation.
“It comes at a right time when it involves serial paedophiles who have links to Malaysia, such as Richard Huckle and Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin and convicted serial rapist Selva Kumar,” she added.
She added that highlights of the Bill included a proposed formation of a special court to hear sex abuse cases involving minors.
The Bill is gender neutral, covering crimes against girls and boys.
“In cases where the victim lacks primary education or is destitute, where feeding a starving stomach matters, they become easy prey.
“Simple financial or material benefits are offered in exchange for their silence or to withdraw their allegations. Hence, such a specific law is important.
“The Bill removes current procedures which requires a child’s testimony to be corroborated by witnesses.
“Nevertheless, an accused will not be treated as guilty until proven in law.
“It also sets penalties for offenders manufacturing or possessing child pornography, which is in line with international standards in addition to criminalising sexual grooming of a child for sexual exploitation,” Chew added.