Enforcement is crucial to ensure success of new laws, say experts

KUALA LUMPUR: Enforcement is crucial, experts say, for the government’s plans on enacting new laws that make sex streaming and the online sextortion of children an offence.

“Laws are only as good as their enforcement and the on-the-ground expertise of the police and other key stakeholders in supporting children affected.

“Taking down child sexual abuse material needs a whole of government and community approach,” said prominent child activist and Yayasan Chow Kit founder Datuk Dr Hartini Zainudin.

“There is no point in amending laws when enforcement is lacking.

“The government cannot even upgrade facilities, for example, (to allow) a child to give evidence from an adjoining room in the court (and allowing) video recordings of the child giving evidence to police to be accepted by the welfare and hospital departments,” she said.

“The poor survivor has to repeat her or his trauma again and again to many different agencies,” she added.

Hartini said the gaps in the Evidence of Child Witness Act must also be addressed, and the trauma the child may suffer as a result of the process must also be taken into account.

She said authorities must ensure that the child only has to give the statement once instead of having to repeat it several times.

Echoing Hartini, Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said that even if the laws became more clear cut, it would mean nothing if law enforcement agencies did not train their officers to use the laws effectively.

“It is reassuring to hear the minister say all this, but the law enforcement agencies must be well-trained to use the said laws to the fullest extent,” he said.

He said making laws more specific would help eliminate loopholes.

“As crimes become more sophisticated and high-tech, we have to spell them out clearly. There are good defence lawyers out there,” he added.

Separately, Firzana Ridzuan, founder of Monsters Among Us, said civil society groups had encountered cases where online sexual perpetrators would direct children to perform sexual acts through live chats.

“The authorities in the Philippines have made tremendous progress as they proactively search for live streaming of sex involving children – they do not wait for reports from family members or others.”

Children also fall victim to online sexual exploitation due to poverty, she said.

“Another aspect to consider is Malaysia’s relatively fair Internet connectivity and English proficiency, which enable perpetrators all over the world to target and exploit the children,” she added.

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