More training needed to ensure officers are equipped to handle child abuse cases

04 Sep 2023 10:49pm
Picture for illustrative purposes only - 123RF
Picture for illustrative purposes only - 123RF

SHAH ALAM – There is a need for more resources in terms of manpower to ensure proper handling of child abuse cases

Responding to the proposal made by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for harsher punishment for abusers under the Children's Commission Bill to be tabled in Dewan Rakyat next month, Yayasan Chow Kit Co-Founder Datuk Dr Hartini Zainudin was of the view that there was still a lack of resources for effective implementation.

“As long as we have differences in who and how we protect different children- Malaysians or non Malaysians, children with disabilities, poor, marginalised or rural children and we don’t invest in getting more trained police and social welfare department (JKM) officers, some will still fall through the cracks,” she told Sinar Daily.

Hartini explained that while the Welfare department has a significant role in handling child abuse cases, the police were responsible

for investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses associated with child abuse which include the sexual abuse and violence against children.

The police manage criminal investigations, apprehend offenders, and cooperate with relevant authorities and the Attorney General's Chambers to ensure that those who commit child abuse are held legally accountable.

“Both the welfare department and the police, along with other relevant authorities, work together in a multidisciplinary approach to protect children and combat child abuse effectively.

“This involves collaboration, information sharing, and coordinated efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of children in Malaysia. Then there’s the accountability factor and the punishment meted out to child abusers,” she said

She further elaborated that the current system was inadequate, as it's often challenging to provide sufficient evidence, especially when children under 10 years old are typically considered unreliable witnesses.

Notably, the prosecutions can be lengthy, and children may forget crucial details, while there was a shortage of trauma counsellors and experts trained to conduct interviews with children in abuse cases.

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“Our child witness act is flawed. In fact, our child act in itself is a cobbling together of laws and acts that are almost 100 years old.

“It’s a child protection system that needs a complete overhaul. Now, we need to combat child sexual abuse online. The communication through the internet, how to catch the abusers ,” she added.

To address these challenges, Hartini added that the ministry needs to allocate more resources for training the police and welfare department officers to prioritise child protection, this is also to ensure that this country has enough support to guarantee the full enforcement and understanding of these laws by relevant agencies.

Echoing Hartini’s views, Suhakam Children Commissioner Dr Farah Nini Dusuki pointed out that the children commission Bill has nothing to do with offences relating to cases, claiming that there was no relevance between the Bill and punishing offenders.

“It's a bill to establish a commission which has no authority in providing for offences against children at all.

“So there really is no relevance between the Bill and punishing offenders. Commission can however educate people on child abuse prevention in its promotion and advocacy roles,” Farah said.

It was earlier reported that Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, said that the Chilldren's Commission will act as a entity tasked with protecting children's interests, and it was imperative that the bill is implemented effectively and in accordance with the Child Act 2011 (Amendment) 2016.