PETALING JAYA: It is an uphill task for underage victims of sexual abuse to seek justice despite the enactment of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 due to the demanding nature of the legal process, say children’s rights advocates.
PS The Children executive director Mariza Abdulkadir said the challenge in obtaining tangible evidence was one reason behind the low conviction rate of paedophiles.
“That’s because in most cases, a police report is not made immediately when abuse happens,” she said.
She added that due to the sensitive nature of the particular crime, it is procedurally difficult to even charge a perpetrator.
“I have seen very, very few convictions, unfortunately. But that’s a reality of child sexual abuse cases all over the world.
“The conviction rate is dismally low even in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, the reason being the nature of these cases.
“Many times, the victims are re-traumatised in the process as well,” she said.
Independent child advocate Madeleine Yong said the current law simply requires “too much evidence to be in place” before a suspect can be charged.
“Children need medical proof to prove they have been raped, such as a physical tear. They also need corroborative evidence,” she said.
It is even more challenging for victims of sexual molestation to seek justice due to the lack of physical evidence, Yong added.
“For molestation, the child has to testify and to testify as a child witness, the system at present needs to be sped up and simplified.
“Molestation is really difficult. The younger the victim is, the worse it is,” she said.
Yong noted that underage molestation cases, particularly those involving preschool children and children with special needs, are much more challenging due to the need for them to be questioned by the authorities.
“The procedure to deal with sexual assault cases needs to be sped up and based on the best interest of the child,” she said.
Over the years, child advocates have been vocal against the previous government’s decision to place national sex abuse statistics under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
Last year, Suriana Welfare Society executive director Scott Wong highlighted the fact that many Malaysians were ignorant of the sexual exploitation of children, while pointing out that the OSA placed on the official statistics hampered efforts to address the issue.In an interview with The Star last September, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said removing the sex abuse statistics from the OSA would be her priority.
Meanwhile, Mariza said while such statistics should be made available to the public, it was also imperative to create public awareness on the topic so that such cases could be prevented in future.
“The release of statistics won’t lead to any substantial changes. Education and awareness will. I believe in educating the public and I believe the media can help do that,” she said.
Last October, Yeoh said there had been over 20,000 recorded cases of child abuse in the past five years, with the majority committed by primary caregivers, who are mothers, followed by fathers, nannies and caregivers.