Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, has offered its technical expertise to the government to be involved in the process of drafting the proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill. Its representative in Malaysia, Marianne Clark Hattingh said the draft legal framework for a bill is another step forward for child rights in Malaysia. Pix courtesy of UNICEF

KUALA LUMPUR: Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, has offered its technical expertise to the government to be involved in the process of drafting the proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill.

Its representative in Malaysia, Marianne Clark Hattingh said the draft legal framework for a bill is another step forward for child rights in Malaysia.

“Unicef in Malaysia has been involved in strengthening the capacity of the judiciary, the police, prosecutors, the legal fraternity and other key stakeholders through capacity-building initiatives on child protection and child justice over the past three years.

“In light of its global experience in developing comprehensive child protection laws, Unicef welcomes the opportunity to be involved in the process of drafting the new Bill and stands ready to offer additional technical expertise to further support the (Malaysian) government’s efforts,” said Hattingh.

She also called the Malaysia to engage in a broad consultation process with local and international partners

“Such sustained dialogue is crucial to ensure that legislation on child protection is not just aligned with local contexts and needs, but also with existing international legal frameworks such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol,” she said.

Hattingh praised Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, saying her efforts reflects the commitment of the government and its partners to strengthen the criminal justice system in response to the horrific cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation that have emerged over the past years.

“We also applaud the commitment by Azalina to expedite cases of sexual crimes against children and her proposal to promote the specialisation of justice sector professionals, such as judges and prosecutors with specific expertise in sexual crimes against children. Such a move is especially important to minimise the trauma experienced by a child victim.”

Although strengthening the legislative framework is essential, Hattingh said laws alone are insufficient to keep children offline and online as mechanisms to implement and enforce such laws are also needed.

“What is also needed are mechanisms to implement and enforce such laws; and services to provide support to victims; and an environment that enables children to recognize and report sexual abuse when it happens.

“This includes strengthened measures to protect child victims of abuse and violence and ensure that they get the care and support they need to rebuild their lives as well as providing education and awareness programmes including sexual and reproductive health for children, young people and parents,” she said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Azalina said the bill would be brought to cabinet this month and would emphasise on settling child sexual crime cases within a year from the date of report without any postponements.

To enable speedy court settlements, Azalina said a special court has to be set up with specialised judges and prosecutors as they would need to get statements from minors and children.