The recent proposal by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to amend the Child Act 2001 to ban caning of children had stirred quite a bit of debate among Malaysians.
Published: 9 February 2015 4:31 PM
Although the ministry had come out to clarify that that the proposal was in general to outlaw all acts of physical and emotional violence against children, I found that public discussion on the issue was a healthy one.
In fact, the government should adopt a public consultation process for all government bills so that Malaysians will have a chance to give their feedbacks before the bills are tabled in Parliament for debate. A sufficient time should be given for such public discussion because any law passed will have an impact on our society and as such, the people’s view must be taken into consideration.
Kudos to the government for updating Child Act but please stay on focus
Fundamentally, I applaud the government’s effort to improve on the Child Act 2001, already a 14-year-old piece of legislation. It is time for the government to review its provisions in accordance to the current standard of human rights and children’s rights.
However, the focus on caning, especially in a pedagogical context at home or in the school, is definitely misguided. While I agree that there are other ways to nurture a child and caning is at best an outdated method, a ban on caning only seeks to protect children against their parents or bona fide guardians. Such law is mala fide to say the least.
If the government is serious in protection of children and minor, it makes more sense to protect them against predators at large, not protect them against their mother or father or teachers.
Why not ban child marriage?
For instance, there were calls by the civil society for the government to ban child marriage. In the 2000 population and housing census, it was recorded that 6,800 children under the age of 15 were stated as married. If anything, we should protect our children against underage marriage which not only robs them from a healthy childhood but also subjects them to enormous emotional, physical, and psychological harms.
Why not protect our children against sexual predators instead?
Or how about protecting our children against sexual predators?
Do you know that every day in Malaysia, there is at least ten reported cases of rape and half of them involved young girls below 16 years old as victims? Advocacy groups estimated that only one in ten cases was reported. The statistics is frightening. This is what we should protect our children against.
Various civil society groups as well as legislators have called for the enactment of the Sexual Offenders Registration Act.
Heavier prison sentences and even whipping do not seem to reduce the number of sexual offences in our country, some of which have resulted in death of the victims. Hence, it is time to implement such registry to prevent former offenders from having and easy access to potential victims or vulnerable groups such as children.
Sexual Offenders Registration Act is 8 years overdue
Such measure is not something new. Around the world, countries such as the United Kingdom, USA, Australia and even South Africa have implemented similar preventive strategy. Actually, it is not something new to Malaysia too. As early as 2007, the Bar Council together with Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM) and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had brought up discussion on this issue. In 2010, both PDRM and the ministry had come together to iron out the mechanism for such act. Yet, despite the many years of discussion on this pressing matter, no bill has been tabled to the Parliament up to today.
The purpose of such registry or Act is to track and monitor former sexual offenders for a specific period after serving their terms, so that without infringing on their personal liberty, limits can be set on their access to potential victims in situations which may lead to vulnerability of the former. For example, they may be prevented from getting a job in kindergartens or schools or becoming taxi drivers.
For better or worse, in the United States version, one can even go to the Internet to check whether a particular offender is living in one’s neighbourhood, even to the extent of getting updates on the movement of the offender moving in or out from the area. Perhaps this is something to discuss further in the context of our own country.
Ultimately, the registry should serve as a preventive measure to further help check on sexual crimes in our country.
These are some of the critical measures which the government should consider in its effort to review laws such as the Child Act 2001. – February 9, 2015.
* Clarence Tan reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.