THE much-anticipated Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 was finally tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on March 27.
Among the key provisions in the proposed new law is a section on child grooming, making it an offence to “sexually communicate”, or “meeting a child for sexual purposes”.
I would like to congratulate The Star for initiating a campaign lobbying for the Bill which has garnered some 115 pledges from the MPs. The daily kick-started the campaign after its R.AGE team released a documentary on sexual crimes against Malaysian children called “Predator In My Phone”.
The recent string of high profile cases of sexual predators, including British paedophile Richard Huckle and Penang-born serial rapist Selva Kumar Subbiah, is a reminder that the Bill needs to be passed quickly.
It is indeed a “landmark” legislation that was formulated to help deal with sexual crimes against children.
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) unit head DSP Tan Gee Soon said in November last year said that police had recorded almost 10,000 cases of children falling victim to some types of sex crime from 2013.
These included about 6,200 cases of child rape, 834 of child incest, and 2,893 cases of outraging the modesty of a child.
Unicef Malaysia in its website explains that violence against
children includes physical and mental abuse as well as injury, neglect, exploitation and sexual abuse.
Tragically, it says that children experience violence in all spaces most familiar to them: in homes, schools, parks and communities they live in. They also suffer abuse and exploitation in orphanages, on streets, in the workplace, in cyberspace as well as in places of detention.
As happens in most countries, Unicef Malaysia claims that only extreme child abuse and neglect cases are reported here, often involving tragic elements of disturbing injuries, sexual abuse or even death.
Based on various studies, reported cases are likely to represent only 10% of the total number of cases as most victims and their families are either too ashamed or unable to report such cases.
We should realise that such abuse will affect children’s physical and mental health and impairs their ability to learn and socialise. At the same time, their development as functional adults and good parents later in life will also be affected.
In the most severe cases, sexual violence against children can also lead to death while those who survive may suffer from serious depression that can turn them suicidal.
Therefore, it is important for all parties to understand and support the proposed bill, which main purpose is to help address issues of exploitation and sexual abuse against children.
However, I believe that the proposed legislation will only work if it gets the support of all sections of community. They must also play their roles to help the authorities nab the perpetrators and charge them in the proposed special court for such cases.
The support from across the political divide, as shown by both the Backbenchers and Opposition lawmakers, proves that they could become a pacesetter for similar efforts in the future.
This bipartisanship shows that all of us can work together to support proposed legislations that benefit the public.
I am confident that the new legislation can be gazetted by year end since Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said has informed the House that the second and third readings of the Bill will take place during this parliamentary meeting.
I hope that the authorities, with the support of various parties, will publicise the new legislation after it has been passed by both houses of Parliament.
It will ensure that everyone knows about the provisions under the new law and none of them can claim that they are unaware of it.
Sexual crimes against children has been in existence for years and has become very rampant lately due to inadequate laws to address them effectively.
Hopefully, the new legislation will help us nab the perpetrators, especially the many wolves in sheep’s clothing.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation