(File pix) A bill passed in Parliament recently will provide legal framework to deal with “new” offences such as online grooming and child pornography. Bernama Photo

KUALA LUMPUR: A bill passed in Parliament recently will provide legal framework to deal with “new” offences such as online grooming and child pornography.

In welcoming the passing of the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) believes more internet-connected children in the country are vulnerable to new forms of abuse and threat.

The passing of the bill tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman was described by Unicef as a positive step towards protecting children from sexual crimes.

It also brings Malaysia closer into alignment with existing international legal frameworks such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty under the United Nations.

Unicef Representative in Malaysia Marianne Clark-Hattingh in a statement said; “The passing of the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 represents an important landmark in protecting children from sexual predators which received the unequivocal backing of Malaysians from all sectors - captains of the industry, the media, parliamentarians and civil society organizations.

“Legislation alone, however, is not enough to protect children. Now that the Bill is passed, it is important to ensure that resources are made available to support its implementation and to back that up with other measures to ensure that children remain safe both online and offline”.

Unicef had also expressed its support to recommendations by Azalina to bring about change in court practices and actions for the judiciary, Attorney General’s chambers and Malaysian Bar.

To develop new court rules for child sexual abuses cases, a structured, skills-oriented and certificate-based training programme are needed for magistrates, judges and deputy public prosecutors before they are assigned child sexual abuse cases.

The success of the bill will depend on the recognition from different segments of Malaysian society – from civil society, the media, private sector, and state officials – on the need for urgent reform on legislation involving child abuse.

Their efforts have successfully brought the conversation on sexual crimes against children to the public domain, highlighting threats emerging from new media technology, the statement added.

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