It is indeed somewhat reassuring to hear that the long awaited Child Sexual Offenders’ List will be ready by next month. Once this list is out, it will hopefully pave the way to a smooth enforcement of the amended Child Act next year.
The Child Act 2001 was enacted to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the care, protection and rehabilitation of children and to provide for matters connected therewith. It consolidated the Juvenile Courts Act 1947, The Women and Girls Protection Act 1973 and the Child Protection Act 1991. Amendments, however, were in dire need, and the frightening revelations in the Richard Huckle paedophile case in May this year put pressure on Parliament to make further changes to protect children from sexual crimes and predators.
Hence The Child Act (Amendment) 2016 in four main areas : child registry; community service order (CSO)); a family based care and heavier penalties. These changes were gazetted after the obtainment of royal assent in late July 2016. The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry stated at the time that an awareness campaign would be conducted so that the public and all relevant agencies were ready before the enforcement of the Act.
The CSO is based on a rehabilitation programme for children who have been involved in crime and adult offenders, which would include the mother, father or guardian, who abuse or neglect their children. Fines would be increased to RM 50,000 and a maximum of 20 years prison for offences under section 31 (which is a provision on ill treatment; neglect; abandonment or exposure of children).
Apparently the delay in the enforcement of the Act was due to the drafting of the Regulations, including the rehabilitation programme, the community service order, and the compilation of the registry which will be known as the “Register for Children”. The Ministry stated that the drafting of such regulations can be tedious; hence the delay.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim announced that this new “Register of Children” will contain information on offenders for crimes including sexual offences, under any written laws where the child is a victim.
The Ministry is currently working with the courts and the police in order to obtain the details of criminals in cases involving child victims.
It is to be noted, however, that the register, once it is out, will be confidential. It will not be made available to the public. The Ministry stated that the reason for this is that it will contain information on convicts who have undergone their punishments, and also information on victims, whose identities must be protected.
Hence the Register will be under the sole custody of the Social Welfare Department (JKM). JKM will carry the mantle of responsibility in assisting schools, non-governmental organisations and other institutions dealing with children such as kindergartens, child care centres and so on.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim stated, “The first phase of the register will involve cross checking existing information of offenders while updating the information of those who have been convicted. Interested parties like employers in child care or the education sector may apply to JKM to screen individuals who may intend to work with them”.
“The screening would be to ensure that these individuals are free from any criminal record where a child is a victim. It would also prevent children from being in contact with ex-offenders of crimes involving children”.
The Minister stressed that only the JKM director general has the power to approve such applications. The decision of hiring the screened person, however, is solely up to the employer.
It is hoped that the Register will indeed be out soon as promised; and that all agencies involved will give their full fledged cooperation to make its publication and enforcement a success.
The saying “no man is an island” is pertinent at this juncture – as the relationships between the various departments are symbiotic and they will have to depend on each other’s support. Goodwill and sincerity in departmental cooperation in the united goal to protect children has the potential to go a long way. The genuine will to succeed, however, must be there. The Ministry cannot do this alone.
Neither can the police nor the courts.
The justice system is frail, like the human body – for it depends on the vital organs working harmoniously together. No one organ can work alone without the support of the entire system.
JKM will hence need the support of many agencies – the police, courts, schools, child care centres, employers and the public.
It is indeed worrying that child sex predators have been repeatedly in our national news. In the recent case of the teacher who had been accused of molesting nine pupils in a Hulu Selangor school; the nation was outraged to hear that the Ministry had merely transferred the said teacher to another school. By right he should not have been placed in another job where he would have close proximity and access to children. To hear that this was a decision which was made by none other than our Education Ministry was disturbing, to say the least.
In a separate case, a teacher who was being investigated for allegedly raping three girls in Sabah’s Beluran district was moved to a non-teaching post at a teachers’ activity centre.
Sexual predators are out there, silently lurking, whether we like it or not. We, the public, also need to be vigilant and report any child abuse that we encounter (including suspicious posts on social media) instead of conveniently turning a blind eye.
At the end of the day, it is our business too.
Because the safety and well being of the nations’ children is our joint responsibility.
Source : Meera Badmanaban@The Heat Malaysia Online