THE gruesome death of 11-month-old baby girl Zara, as a result of sexual abuse, points to one thing: there are still menacing monsters among us. There should be no free roaming space for such despicable men, say Netizens. We agree. Malaysians outside the cyberspace, too, will be outraged. We join the country in asking: what nature of men would commit such an odious crime? It is too beastly to contemplate even. Such vile beings do not just come from Malaysia; there are paedophiles from without. Many will remember Briton Richard Huckle, who was handed down 22 life sentences in November 2016 by a British court for sexually abusing 200 babies and children, most of them in Malaysia. Men of such debased minds and horrible hearts deserve either the gallows or to be locked up for the rest of their lives.
Our children must be protected from the enemy, within and without.
To do this, the government can begin by not abolishing the death penalty for such heinous crime. It is heartening to note that Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is of similar view. No Malaysian in his right mind will stop a Richard Huckle from being sent to the gallows. Twenty-two life sentences may sound more than enough but if you have only one life like all of us do, the remaining 21 are just for the realm of theory. Next, the government must listen to child rights groups’ call to make public child sexual abuse data. Worrying about such data causing alarm among the public is at best a lame reason to keep them secret. On the contrary, such secrecy lulls us into a national lethargy. Just look at the numbers revealed in Parliament, the only place such statistics freely make their appearance. On July 27, 2016, the then women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat that 22,134 children were sexually abused from 2010 to May 2016, with more than 50 per cent of them raped. More than 1,000 were victims of unnatural sex. Malaysia was not alarmed into a riot then; it will not be now. Child rights advocates’ rationale is simple: opening up about a national problem is the first step in solving it. When people become aware of a problem, they will be better prepared to help the authorities solve it. Making the information public will also help victims of child abuse to come forward.
Child abuse experts tell us that children are usually sexually abused by someone whom they know: family members, relatives or childminders. Parents, especially mothers, must ensure that girls of vulnerable age are not left alone in the house. Or elsewhere. This paper’s Leader on Sept 9 last year called on the community to lend a helping hand in keeping the children in the neighbourhood safe. We repeat the call. But neighbourhood policing is neither sufficient nor adequate. The police still need to police. A little more now perhaps. Our children must be saved from such hearts of darkness.