THE proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill has been widely hailed by the experts who have been consulting on it as part of the Government’s child sexual crimes task force.
The Predator In My Phone team was invited to have a look at the Bill as well, but unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to reveal any specifics while it is still being finalised.
Thankfully, the head of the task force, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, gave a press conference where she mentioned some of the key issues the Bill will be covering. Here’s what we were able to glean from it.
1. Child pornography
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the region with no specific provisions defining child pornography – we only have laws against pornography in general. Because of that, it isn’t officially a crime to possess child pornography, and Internet service providers aren’t required to report suspicious activity to the authorities. The task force hopes to change that.
2. Sexual harassment against children
Sexual harassment is currently addressed under the Penal Code, but the offence against a child should be an aggravated offence. Children NGOs hope the new laws will cover all forms of implied or explicit harassment of a child, including non-contact offenses like engaging in sexual acts in front of a child or inducing the child to touch him or herself in a sexual manner.
3. Child sexual grooming
Azalina said the task force hopes to include laws against child sexual grooming in the bill. This would allow the police to act against a sex predator at the grooming stage, before any physical abuse takes place. Grooming has become increasingly common, particularly due to the popularity of mobile chat apps among teenagers.
4. Credibility of a child’s testimony
Malaysian courts treat testimony provided by children with caution due to the belief that a child may not be telling the truth, and that they may be unable to provide an accurate account of events. According to Section 133A of the Malaysian Evidence Act 1950, a statement by a child witness has to be corroborated by some other material evidence. Children NGOs and stakeholders in the task force say this has contributed to the low conviction rates when it comes to child
sexual crime cases, when in fact, studies have shown that children are more likely
to give a truthful account in court than adults.
5. Specialised courts for child sexual crimes
In order to minimise the trauma of a child victim, we need to have prosecutors, judges and magistrates who specialise in child sexual crime cases. This could also help shorten the timeline of such cases, which currently takes up to eight years to resolve, prolonging the re-victimisation of the child. According to Azalina, the police and Attorney-General’s Chambers recommended that cases be resolved within a year after submission to the courts.
Members of the task force share their thoughts on the proposed Bill.
“Our present criminal justice system is not very friendly to child victims. We hope to have more air-tight laws to assist us in convicting a person.” – DSP Tan Gee Soon, Bukit Aman’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigation unit
“The proposal to promote the specialisation of justice sector professionals […] is especially important to minimise the trauma experienced by a child victim.” – Marianne Clark-Hattingh, UNICEF Representative in Malaysia
“We are behind the game here compared to countries like the UK and Singapore, but we have the benefit of learning from their experiences. Any provisions that we enact should take into account current research and strive to be better.” –Srividhya Ganapathy, co-chairperson of the Child Rights Committee, Bar Council
“The police have included a recommendation to be able to go undercover as a fictitious young person, following examples from countries like the UK.”– Melissa Mohd Akhir, senior advocacy officer of Women’s Centre for Change
“We cannot just stop at prevention and awareness. The public needs to know that everyone here is trying our best but we still need their support.” – Syed Azmi, social media activist