Protecting our kids from online sex crimes

KUALA LUMPUR: Live sex streaming and online sextortion of children will be new offences following amendments to the laws governing sexual crimes against children.

The new laws will be tabled in Parliament this coming Monday, said Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law and institutional reforms said the laws would be introduced through amendments to the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

“Child grooming was introduced as an offence in 2017, but online sexual abuse cases involving children are on the rise.

“We are proposing to amend the term ‘child pornography’, which is an outdated term, to ‘child sexual abuse material’.

“We are also adding live streaming sex and sexual extortion of a child as new offences,” she told reporters at a press conference in Parliament yesterday.

Under the new Section 15A, she said those convicted of directly participating, organising, promoting, directing the abuse or receiving money for live streaming sex involving children can face a 20-year maximum jail term, a maximum RM50,000 fine, or both.

As for online sextortion, Azalina said this will be covered under the proposed new Section 15B.

She said there were instances where a child was duped into posting inappropriate images of themselves online, which were then used to blackmail or extort money from the victim.

Improving safeguards: Azalina speaking to reporters at Parliament House. — BernamaImproving safeguards: Azalina speaking to reporters at Parliament House. — Bernama

This occurs even in schools, she said, when boyfriends and girlfriends split up and photographs are used to threaten the victims.

“This will be an offence. We will send you to jail and we don’t care how old you are,” she added.

Under the proposed Section 15B, a person who uses a sexual image of a child to blackmail and threaten a child for more images or videos, extort money or to have sex may face a maximum 10-year jail term upon conviction.

Azalina said the amendments will also include new Sections 26A and 26B, which empower the court to order a convicted perpetrator to pay compensation to the victim.

The proposed compensation, she said, was for counselling and rehabilitation of the victim.

She said the Evidence of Child Witness Act 2007 will also be amended.

Azalina said Section 2 of the Act will be amended, where the definition of age of a child witness will be increased from 16 to 18.

She said that a new Section 6B will be added to empower the judge to prevent defence lawyers from harassing child witnesses with insulting, belittling or inappropriate questions.

Under the new Section 6A, Azalina said the relevant investigation authorities would be able to use pre-recorded evidence from child victims.

Although a child is currently permitted to testify via camera, she said the proposed amendment will make pre-recorded evidence admissible.

“The extraction of evidence will be done when the child is examined or from the first point of contact. So the child won’t have to attend court,” she said.

Azalina said court proceedings could be an intimidating experience for children, who may have to re-live their traumatic experience, including facing their perpetrator, while in court.

She said the amendments were the first phase of reforms, as there are also plans to amend the Evidence Act to allow for the admissibility of uncorroborated child evidence involving sexual offences.

Earlier in Dewan Rakyat, Azalina informed the House that over 3,000 suspects had been charged for various sexual offences against children since 2018.

“Since 2018 until January 2023, a total of 5,519 cases were reported under the Act.”

She said a recent report stated that about 100,000 children in the country were exposed to some form of online sexual abuse.

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