THE first week of Parliament saw hard-hitting questions being raised by ministers to set the debate on child sexual crimes in motion.
It has been just over a week since the #MPsAgainstPredators campaign was launched to call for new laws against child sexual crimes, but things are already looking very promising.
On the social media front, around 30 Members of Parliament – from Sembrong MP Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein to Permatang Pauh MP Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – have publicly pledged to push for the new laws in Parliament, which will be convening from now until the end of November.
The campaign’s hard-hitting promo videos, featuring celebrity supporters like actress Lisa Surihani, social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and YouTube star Jin Lim, have been viewed over a million times in less than 10 days.
But most important, MPs have already started bringing up the issue of child sexual crimes in Parliament! #MPsAgainstPredators is all about getting the public to send social media messages to their MPs about this issue, and clearly the MPs have been listening.
On Thursday, Bukit Katil MP Shamsul Iskandar urged all his fellow MPs to support the campaign during Minister’s question time in Parliament.
“I urge all lawmakers in Dewan to support the efforts by the group of journalists from The Star’s R.AGE team, who are calling on all Malaysians to support their effort with the United Nations Children’s Fund to prevent pedophilia here,” he said.
He added that he hopes to see amendments made to the Penal Code and for new laws to be implemented to curb child sexual grooming, which is the process of befriending a child and earning his/her trust with the intention of sexually exploiting them.
R.AGE’s Predator In My Phone series uncovered an alarming trend of child sexual grooming in Malaysia through undercover investigations where two journalists disguised as 15-year-old girls to meet up with these “groomers”.
RELATED: To catch a child sex predator
“I brought up chemical castration for pedophiles like what Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has implemented as one of the severe punishments to be considered in Malaysia as well,” said Shamsul to R.AGE after his comments in Parliament.
“This is a non-partisan issue. I don’t think there’ll be any objection from the Cabinet. This crime involves children, and I can’t think of anything more serious than this.”
Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriraani Patto also brought up the issue, by posing a question on the need for laws against child sexual grooming to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
“Many times the government decides on passing a bill or making amendments based on public feedback. The public plays a role to make sure their MPs listen to why we need these laws in our country and why we need it now,” said Kasthuriraani, emphasising the need for Malaysians to play their part in the #MPsAgainstPredators campaign by lobbying their MPs.
RELATED: Why we need anti-grooming laws
However, Kasthuriraani is disappointed that the motion to table a new bill on sexual grooming is not in the papers, though she is pleased that many MPs have put in questions about child sexual crimes on different days to highlight the urgency of the issue.
“I hope this would be a wake up call for the government to give this matter enough priority and urgency,” she said.
Setiawangsa MP Datuk Ahmad Fauzi submitted a question on efforts to deal with pedophilia, which was answered by Women, Family and Community Development Deputy Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun.
Azizah highlighted the sexual crimes task force headed by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, which has created a widely-praised draft of a Child Sexual Crimes Bill.
Azalina has previously said that the Bill includes laws against sexual grooming, and she aims to table it in Parliament, pending approval from the Cabinet.
“The task force is discussing in detail to come up with a comprehensive way to deal with the problem,” assured Azizah.
“We are also looking at how to prevent seduction of young children (grooming) and to make it a crime. This will allow action to be taken not after a sexual crime happens but before, as a preventive measure.”
On the same day, Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari received a written response to his question on the need for laws to address child pornography.
Zairil said the law needs to clearly define crimes involving child exploitation in pornography, as well as heavy punishments to deter those that break such laws.
“Child pornography creates sexual desires towards children and is attributed as one of the factors that lead rapists to committing the crime,” he reasoned.
Zairil, who had brought up the issue of child sexual grooming in Parliament last year, also highlighted the fact that Malaysia has yet to implement a sex offenders’ registry.
“I really hope that the bill for the Child Sexual Crimes Act will be tabled during this sitting because we’re running out of time. There needs to be more pressure put on the government. I hope the public will make much more noise so that other MPs will see the urgency too.”