Our children are constantly exposed to various dangers such as accidents, kidnapping, physical and emotional abuse, and sexual violence.
Based on various studies, sexual violence is considered as the worst kind of abuse as it has both short- and long-term effects.
If the trauma faced by the victims are not properly addressed, they could suffer from various symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, loss of appetite, paranoia, difficulty in trusting others and tendency to become abuser in their adulthood.
The case involving Richard Huckle has in a way, served as a wake-up call for everyone on the serious threats of sexual abuse by paedophiles.
However, we could heave a sigh of relief when the British citizen was last year sentenced to life imprisonment in his own country, for his sexual abuse against Malaysian and Cambodian children.
In the past week, there were also outrage and anxiety among the public over the deportation of convicted serial rapist Selva Kumar Subbiah from Canada back to Malaysia, as they believed he could also become a paedophile.
Certain parties have suggested that the double jeopardy principle should not apply to the sex offender while many others have suggested that he should be closely monitored by the police upon his return. Both arguments have their justification.
Double jeopardy refers to a procedural defence that disallows an accused from being tried again on the same charge after he or she has been acquitted or served his or her sentence.
Last year, most of us were also perplexed when a foreign news agency reported that most complaints of child sexual abuse in Malaysia did not lead to successful prosecutions, largely due to weaknesses in the nation’s criminal justice system.
It also highlighted that much of the data on child sexual abuse is not disclosed because it falls under the Official Secrets Act.
I therefore suggest that the government should not further delay the tabling of the Child Sexual Crime Bill, which will help address the matter and other issues, including child pornography and sexual harassment and grooming.
The Bill, if passed, would be an extension to the Penal Code and Child Act (Amendment) 2016, which carries heavier penalties.
The amended Act provides a maximum fine of RM50,000 and a jail term of up to 20 years for those convicted of child abuse, mistreatment and neglect of children; compared with the previous law that had a fine of not more than RM10,000 and a jail term of 10 years.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman has in December last year said that the Bill would be tabled in March, although it was initially slated for the first and second reading in the Dewan Rakyat in November last year.
I support the proposal to set up a special court under the new law, as it could help expedite the trial of sexual crime cases involving children.
It was reported that judges and prosecutors in the special court are also specialised in child sexual crimes, and resolution of child sexual abuse cases will be made within a year.
At the same time, I also agree to the provision which compel third parties to report suspected child abuse cases as currently, only immediate family members, medical professionals and child care providers have a duty to report such cases.
This provision is crucial as it could help ensure members of the public play their role against child abuse, as shown in the recent case where three children were tied and had their mouths covered with napkins in a nursery in Bangi.
Netizens have shared photographs of the incident on social media, prompting police to arrest the nursery owner and two of her employees and charged them in the Kajang Sessions Court.
I am also relieved that the Bill will also tackle sexual crimes taking place online, such as that which happened in the case of Huckle.
Therefore, I really hope that the Child Sexual Crime Bill could be tabled, passed and gazetted as soon as possible so that those who commit such crimes could be prosecuted.
We should never allow the sex predators to roam freely among us while their victims suffer, as justice delayed is justice denied.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation