Sexual Offences Against Children (Amendment) Bill tabled for first reading in Parliament

27 Mar 2023 07:16pm
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said - Photo: BERNAMA
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said - Photo: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - The Sexual Offences Against Children (Amendment) Bill 2023, which aims to provide clearer and comprehensive protection for children, was tabled for the first time in the Dewan Rakyat today.

It was tabled by the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The bill, among other things, provides a prison sentence of not more than 20 years and a fine of up to RM50,000 for offences involving sexual performance by children.

The offences include making or causing children to perform sexual acts; participating, either as a participant or spectator in a sexual performance; advertising, promoting or facilitating sexual performances; as well as receiving any benefit, including money from the sexual performance.

The bill defines 'sexual performance' as any overt sexual act performed in front of one or more viewers, including recorded or transmitted in whole or in part, by any means including electronic, mechanical, digital, optical or magnetic, or a combination of any one of them.

Apart from that, for matters involving sexual extortion of children, such as threatening to perform sexual activities, threatening them to share any image whether in visual, audio or written form, the individual concerned can be sentenced to a prison term not exceeding 10 years, if convicted.

The bill also states the payment of compensation to child victims will be determined by the court based on the injuries suffered by the victims.

Azalina also tabled the Evidence of Child Witness (Amendment) Bill 2023, which aims to improve the protection of child witnesses by increasing the age of child witnesses from 16 years to 18 years.

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It aims to include a provision that allows the court to prohibit any inappropriate questions to child witnesses during special hearings such as those that are misleading or confusing, insulting, intimidating, humiliating, disturbing, annoying, offensive, oppressive or unnecessarily repetitive.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement today, Azalina said that the amendment of the two acts is the first phase amendment effort related to sexual crimes against children, following the engagement session of the Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) with various stakeholders.

She said the engagement session was aimed at discussing the direction, as well as getting input and feedback on the preparation of the policy, and also discussing the parameters of amendments related to sexual crimes against children.

"The Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 (Act 792), which has been in force since July 10, 2017, has been found to have several gaps and challenges, which need to be studied and revised to ensure a smoother implementation, so that the purpose of the act can be achieved.

"The Evidence of Child Witness Act 2007 (Act 676), which provides for matters related to child witness testimony, has been in force since 2007, and has not been amended for 16 years. Now is appropriate to amend it in line with current developments," she said.

She added that, among the proposed amendments to the two acts, was the replacement of the terminology of child pornography in line with current global best practice; the term 'child pornography' was proposed to be replaced with 'child sexual abuse material' in Act 792.

The proposed second phase amendment regarding the authority of child witnesses, and the repeal of the legal requirement regarding supporting evidence for child witnesses, is expected to be implemented at the next Parliament session, after an engagement session held especially with the Malaysian Bar Council, she said.

"It is hoped that the proposed amendments to Act 792 and Act 676 will receive the strong support of all Members of Parliament, senators and the public, as well as cooperation from the authorities, so that the amendments made can be implemented effectively and sexual crimes against children in Malaysia are eradicated," she said. - BERNAMA