New department will enhance child protection under Child Act, says Nancy Shukri

KUALA LUMPUR: The new Child Development Department will enhance the Child Protection Team and Child Welfare Team formed under the Child Act 2001 in some 105 districts across the country, says Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

The Women, Family and Community Development Minister said the Child Development Department has replaced the Children's Section under the Social Welfare Department (JKM) effective Sept 1, 2023.

The Child Development Department has also approved 169 contract employees in 2023 to strengthen its foundation at the headquarters and district levels, she said.

"This ensures the department provides effective and professional services to better protect children's safety and welfare," she said in a statement Monday (Sept 18).

"Many thanks to the Public Service Department (JPA) and the Finance Ministry for approving the creation of this Department," she added.

The department - announced under Budget 2023 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Feb 24 - is the best solution to tackle child abuse issues which has been rampant of late, Nancy said.

"The department will provide child services based on five pillars: prevention, development, protection, recovery and re-integration to society," she added.

Meanwhile, when asked about JKM's recent findings that 2,959 child abuse cases had been reported between January and May this year, Nancy said the high number is because more more people are confident in seeking JKM's child protection services.

"People were scared to file complaints before and now are more brave to do so.

"We want to teach children their rights and educate parents and adults around them what they can and can't do against them," she said during the Child Protection Advocacy Programme: Kasih Kanak-Kanak Kuala Lumpur here.

Nancy also said the Ministry is reviewing the Child Act 2001 and will present its findings in Parliament in the future.

Among the points being reviewed include the punishment in sexual harassment cases, she said.

"The punishment for sexual harassment cases was previously too light and didn't scare predators enough.

"However, the Ministry's discussion is ongoing and hasn't concluded yet," she added.

Separately, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said the Ministry has launched the anti-bullying guidelines and sexual harassment guidelines to protect children's well-being.

"These guidelines are important as it involve strict rules and measures to protect the mental and physical wellbeing of children," she said during the Child Protection Advocacy Programme.

She added that more counselling teachers will be added in both primary and secondary schools to help students better deal with any problems.

Children are also advised to avoid committing three horrible sins - bullying, sexual harassment and racism, she said.

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