WHEN Datuk Ilani Mohd Ibrahim stepped up to talk about the proposed child sexual crimes bill and amendments to existing laws, everyone waited with bated breath.
As the bill is still under wraps, Ilani, parliamentary draftsmen in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), kept the topic firmly on existing laws, which led to many questions being asked by the audience during the Q&A.
Here are the five points Ilani made during the Q&A session, which we translated into layman’s terms with help from Tham Hui Ying, vice-president of the Association of Women Lawyers:
1. Current laws are too general. Looking at how technology has affected the way predators approach children, the AGC is working to include more detailed laws against sexual crimes, as well as child-specific laws in the new bill. Punish-ments will also be changed to suit the severity of the crime.
2. Guardians – and the term includes parents, teachers and health professionals – who have the highest responsibility towards the child will receive a heavier punishment if found guilty of child abuse.
3. The definition of rape will be amended to include bodily objects. Previously the legal definition was penile intercourse without the woman’s consent.
4. The Evidence of Child Witnesses act currently defines a child witness as 16 and below. According to Ilani, there may be an amendment to include children up to 18.
This will allow them the protection provided under the act, such as allowing the victim to testify via video link to lessen any potential trauma stemming from having to be in the same room as his or her abuser.
5. The bill will also cover online pornographic material. Previously it only included printed pornographic materials or photographs.
Experts’ suggestions for the new bill
By CARLOS RUBEN DOURADO & THAI YI LIN
HERE are some suggestions for the child sexual crimes bill ahead of its tabling in Parliament next week.
Laws against child marriages
Despite Malaysia having adopted a United Nations’ resolution to end child marriage in 2013, child marriages are still allowed under special provisions of the syariah courts.
“We should outlaw child marriages because sexual intercourse with a girl under 16 is still considered a sexual crime against children according to the Penal Code,” said Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching.
Sex offender registry
Sharmila Sekaran, chairperson of Voice of The Children, suggested creating a sex offender registry. “It should also be mandatory for all bodies, organisations and schools that work with children to find out whether a prospective employee is on the registry,” she said.
Datuk Ilani Mohd Ibrahim confirmed that the new bill will broaden the definition of rape to other body parts, but there are still other aspects that could be included, specifically the use of objects, said Srividhya Ganapathy, member of the Bar Council Child Rights Committee.
“The current definition of rape is only restricted to unwanted penile intercourse with a woman. It does not cover boys (as victims) or objects,” she said.
According to the old definition of rape, boys cannot possibly be victims, but as statistics from the Royal Malaysian Police show, there were a total of 422 reported cases of seks luar tabii (unnatural sex) from 2015 to 2016, which include male victims.
Widening the scope of child sexual crimes
The new bill should also cover other types of child sexual offences apart from rape, especially online and offline sexual grooming, said Sharmila. “The reality is that children have been exposed to certain things earlier and with the whole grooming process, they eventually consent to the sex. Sometimes they’re even told they won’t get pregnant and they believe it,” said Sharmila.
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