Parliament passes amendments to better protect children against sex crimes

KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat has passed amendments to two Bills aimed at better protection of children from sexual crimes, as well as child witnesses in such cases.

The first Bill was for the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, which was passed via a voice vote after 10 MPs debated.

The amendments seek to criminalise the live streaming of sex acts involving children and sextortion.

“These amendments may not solve the issue entirely, but this is a step (towards) telling the people out there that sexual crimes against children will not be tolerated.

“They will be penalised, even if they are family members, friends or acquaintances,” said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

After that, Azalina delivered her winding-up speech on the Bill to amend the Evidence of Child Witness Act 2007.

Eight MPs debated on the Bill, which was also passed after a voice vote.

The amendments seek to prohibit any misleading, confusing, discriminating and belittling questions against children who testify in cases.

The amendments will also include a special hearing for a pre-recorded statement of the child witness’s examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination before the trial so that the children do not have to be in court.

Other amendments were to raise the definition of “child witness” from below the age of 16 to below 18.

Azalina said the amendments were in line with international standards.

She added that aside from the amendments to beef up the Evidence of Child Witness Act, it is crucial to change social mindsets.

Azalina said the government will engage with the Rukun Tetangga community in efforts to curb sexual crimes against children.

“(We will) conduct awareness programmes because the local community, the neighbours, should help the government in reducing cases of sexual crimes against children,” she added.

According to the minister, there will be two phases of amendments for the Evidence of Child Witness Act.

“Amendments in the second phase will be (tabled) in the next Parliament session,” she said.

The current Parliament session ends on April 4, with the next meeting scheduled for 11 days from May 22 to June 15.

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