A comprehensive and unbiased report should be submitted as a measure of enhancing children’s rights and protection
by AZREEN HANI & NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic by AFP
THE Health Ministry’s revelation that more than 82,300 children have tested positive for Covid-19 raises alarm on our future generation’s wellbeing.
The dramatic rise of Covid cases among children is in stark contrast to the cases reported in 2020, where only 8,369 Covid cases have been detected among our children.
While there are obvious health concerns for children, the rise in abuse cases, especially during lockdown, needs to be addressed too.
Parti Pejuang Tanah Air Women Youth chief Dr Nurul Ashikin Mabahwi believes that the government should be more aggressive and responsive in protecting children and women’s rights, especially during the pandemic.
“Until September 2020, 3,875 cases of child abuse were recorded. The police have issued statements of 12,330 criminal cases against women, children and sexual crimes reported during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period. These numbers prove that there is a drastic increase in domestic violence and child abuse occurred during the MCO,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.
“It’s been almost two years since our country was hit by a pandemic, a significant increase in domestic violence and mental and sexual abuse of children should have been anticipated,” Nurul Ashikin added.
She said the Women, Family and Community Development (KPWKM) Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun should have had the initiative and spread it to the public, especially to women and children about how they can get help and protection during the MCO.
She recommended the KPWKM to provide special financial assistance directly (to the bank account) of the victim, so that they can save themselves and ensure at least every parliamentary and state constituency is complete with a designated shelter for these victims.
“Furthermore, there should be an awareness campaign for women and children on what to do in case they need help. With the government’s full resources, it could have been done,” Nurul Ashikin added.
Last year, the Child Rights Coalition Malaysia (CRCM) said a comprehensive and unbiased report should be submitted as a measure of enhancing children’s rights and protection in Malaysia.
With the country’s reservation to Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), non-discrimination, discrimination and exclusion from protection and essential services are inflicted on children that are refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless, migrants and other undocumented children.
“These groups of children are not given the same access to the child protection mechanisms, education and basic healthcare services as other children with valid legal statuses in the country,” the report said.
For the status report, the CRCM has been collecting and compiling data to reflect the issues and challenges of children on ground, depicting the status of the CRC implementation.
“The status report will record experiences faced by various clusters of children in Malaysia, such as refugee children, abused children, children living in poverty, etc.
“Besides elaborating on the constraints, the status report also outlines the achieved milestones and special protection measures implemented so far,” it said.
Among other issues the report noted included child marriage, which is widely practised and permitted under the country’s legal system, as well as violation of the rights to life, health, education and more of refugee and asylum-seeking and stateless children.
On Oct 2, 2020, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission had notified Telegram over a local chat group spreading photos of women and child pornography for further assessment.
“Based on NGO experience, although the Sexual Offences Against Children Act (SOACA) 2017 is good in substance, the police must be given the necessary resources to investigate and catch online perpetrators.
“Such resources include not just more trained officers, but also the necessary information technology equipment, including specialised programmes,” the report noted.
It also added that in practice, it is found that the police are still reluctant to investigate child pornography cases without a report.
“It has been found that police officers on the ground have not been trained on the wide ambit of the provisions under the SOACA in relation to child pornography and the implications child pornography has on children,” the report said.
On sexual abuse against a child, the perpetrator may be charged under the Child Act or the SOACA, while perpetrators who are family members may be charged under the Domestic Violence Act.
“Unfortunately, there remains a lack of enforcement of the SOACA by the police and lack of prosecutions brought under SOACA provisions, including physical sexual abuse of a child and child pornography,” the report said.
It also added that based on NGO experience, there is a lack of knowledge and awareness on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, leading them to being “re-victimised”.
“As an example, multiple recounting of the child’s history is conducted at hospitals and the police station, despite SOPs for One Stop Crisis Centre and domestic violence response, with many stakeholders either being ignorant of the fact that there are applicable SOPs or viewing these SOPs as theoretical,” the report noted.
On top of that, domestic violence which exposes dangerous behaviour to children, even when the children are not abused, is also prevalent.
“A 2014 study by Universiti Sains Malaysia found that from among the domestic violence cases analysed for the study, 73% of the women survivors reported that their children had seen or heard the violence in the household,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Wanita MCA president Datuk Heng Seai Kie said the National Security Council’s decision to limit children outdoors is a welcome move in order to reduce the infection risks.
Children are only allowed to go out for four purposes — emergency, medical treatment, education and exercising.
“Parents and guardians need to be more sensitive and caring to protect their children as our negligence today will harm them in the future,” she said in a recent statement.
Wanita MCA hopes that the ongoing National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme will reach its target in an effort to create herd immunity while preventing the spread of the outbreak to others, especially high-risk groups.
“It is not impossible that an appropriate vaccine can be dispensed to children if efficacy studies on this group have been obtained,” Heng said.