KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has achieved so much within a period of one year on matters relating to sexual crimes against children, said Prime Minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
In her speech at the High-Level Meeting on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for Children: Collective Actions and Innovative Solutions in New York, Rosmah shared Malaysia’s success stories in handling crime issues related to children.
Rosmah said Malaysia’s inclusive policies had ensured that children, especially those from rural areas and low-income families, had the opportunities to realise their full potential and easy access to quality healthcare and other social services.
“Malaysia’s achievements are well documented in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The rights of children are enshrined in the Child Act of 2001 in accordance with the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Punishments in the Child Act was amended to substitute whipping with community service. The Domestic Violence Act was amended to provide emergency protection to child victims,” said Rosmah.
However, Rosmah said despite this tremendous progress, a silent danger lurks in the form of sexual grooming and sexual abuse.
“Unfortunately, sexual abuse and incest are taboo topics in many societies. Parents or guardians are reluctant to report what they perceive as stigma, with adverse consequences on the child. We have decided to address this problem head-on,” she added.
Rosmah also shared methods and experiences that Malaysia had applied to combat child sexual offences – one of it was on the Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017.
“In August 2016, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took decisive action in forming a task force consisting of relevant government agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to look into all issues related to sexual crimes against children.
“With full political commitment from the top, within six months, the Bill on Sexual Offences against Children was drafted and presented to Parliament in March 2017.
“The strategy was to table the Bill together with raising public awareness. A two-day National Seminar on “Sexual Offences Against Children: Stop It” was organised for more than 1,200 participants representing government agencies, NGOs, especially women and children NGOs, professional associations, corporations, the media, parents, teachers, students, celebrities and the public at large.
“Timing the seminar to coincide with the Parliamentary session was a brilliant step. Overwhelming public support for the Bill convinced lawmakers to unanimously pass it and the Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017 came into force on July 10, 2017,” she added.
Rosmah added in June 2017, the Sexual Offences against Children Court was launched by Najib to ensure that all cases would be dealt within 12 months.
“I believe this court is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. Under a very experienced presiding judge who dispenses justice in a child-friendly way, 248 of the 293 registered cases, or 84.6 per cent, have been disposed of within three months.
“The Government is also planning to expand this Special Court to other states in the country,” said Rosmah, adding that a special committee had been set up to draft detailed and comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to serve as a guide for dealing with cases in a professional and tactful manner, to ensure that victims and their families do not suffer greater physical, emotional and psychological trauma.
To improve competencies in handling this issue, many programmes were drafted to improve the expertise of judges, prosecutors, legal practitioners, police, counsellors, social workers and health professionals.
“Sign language interpreters are also being trained to assist children with special needs to give evidence of sexual abuse.
”Mobile applications are also being developed and launched. My Permata will help children below 12
to learn self-defence in an interactive way.
“A Seminar on “Keeping our Women and Children CyberSafe” will be conducted on Oct 22 by the National Council of Women and Cyber Security Malaysia,” she said.
Rosmah added that Malaysia was also in an effort to benchmark itself with international organisations including the Lucy Faithfull Foundation United Kingdom, Bravehearts Australia, and Tulir in India.
“Visits were made to the New Delhi Special Court, the United Kingdom Stratford Domestic Violence Court, Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Team at the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington DC.
“Malaysia is studying the feasibility of establishing a Children’s Commission and to becoming a party to the Council of Europe Lanzarote Convention.
“Exploitation and sexual offences and other forms of violence against children do not respect borders. Malaysia is proposing an Asean-level seminar to be hosted by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in 2018,” added Rosmah.
Also present at the meeting were Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine Baroness Stern and Know Violence in Childhood Co-Chairs Professor Shiv Kumar and Sweden’s Ambassador Olof Skoog.
keywords: High-Level Meeting on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for Children: Collective Actions and Innovative Solutions, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, crime against children, Queen Silvia of Sweden, Princess Madeleine Baroness Stern,Professor Shiv Kumar, Olof Skoog, Violence in Childhood, New Delhi Special Court, United Kingdom Stratford Domestic Violence Court, Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Team, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Council of Women, Cyber Security Malaysia, Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017, Bill on Sexual Offences against Children, My Permata, Bravehearts Australia, Tulir India, Luch Faithfull Foundation United Kingdom, Council of Europe Lanzarote Convention