KUALA LUMPUR: Live streaming of sex involving children and sextortion are now crimes under amendments to two Bills passed in Parliament.
Also prohibited is the practice of asking children who testify, questions that are misleading, confusing, discriminating, or belittling.
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A special hearing for a pre-recorded statement by the child witness’ examiner-in-chief, the cross-examination, and the re-examination will replace the requirement that children attend the trial in open court.
A total of 10 MPs debated the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, which was then passed via a voice vote. The amendments to the Act seek to criminalise the live streaming of sex involving children and sextortion.
“These amendments may not solve the issue entirely, but this is our step in telling the people out there that sexual crimes against children will not be tolerated,” said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
“The culprits will be penalised, regardless if they are family members, friends or acquaintances,” she said.
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Eight MPs then debated the Bill to amend the Evidence of Child Witness Act (Act 676) and it was passed after a voice vote in Parliament.
The amendments included one to raise the definition of a “child witness” from below age 16 to below age 18.
Azalina said the amendments to better protect children from sexual crimes, including child witnesses in such cases, were in line with international standards.
“I know some MPs here are saying it is fine to have adults accompany the child when giving testimony.
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“But the issue here is that in many surveys conducted – I’m embarrassed to say this – but most cases involved Muslim Malays: they are not just victims but also perpetrators,” she said.
Azalina added that it was crucial to change the mindset of society.
The ministry will soon engage the Rukun Tetangga community in efforts to curb sexual crimes against children.
“Conducting awareness programmes in the local community should help reduce the number of sexual crime cases against children,” added Azalina.
She said there would be two phases to amending the Evidence of Child Witness Act.
“The second phase of amendments to the Evidence of Child Witness Act will be brought to Parliament at the next meeting,” added Azalina.