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Alarming increase in sexual abuse involving minors
Published on: Sunday, November 03, 2019

ATTORNEY General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ decision to defend the “No Further Action” (NFA) order with regard to the case where a minor was allegedly sexually assaulted by three older students at a tahfiz school in Ipoh is utterly shocking and unacceptable.

The All Women’s Action Society (Awam) stands firmly with Suhakam’s Child Commissioner Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) in holding the AG accountable for his decision given that Magistrate Mohammad Afifi Mohammad Deen had already established that an offence had taken place under Section 377E of the Penal Code and Section 14(a) of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

Awam urges the AG to study the allegations made by the aggrieved mother of the victim with regard to lack of identified suspects, missing reports on the psychological evaluations, and more. 

Awam believes that if the mother’s claims are found to be valid, the AG must pursue the case to its conclusion and hold the alleged perpetrators accountable. Awam believes the role of the AG goes beyond the mere persecution of cases; he must also uphold justice and the rights of citizens under the constitution and the law.

This also means that the AG must respect Malaysia’s commitment under the Convention On The Rights of the Child (CRC). 

Article 34 of the CRC clearly outlines the government’s and its agencies’ obligation to “protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”

Awam firmly believes that it is also the responsibility of members of society to keep our country safe for children. 

Every day, adults miss real opportunities to prevent child sexual abuse because of misinformation and confusing stereotypes about sexual abuse.

In 2018, there were four reported cases of child sexual assault (CSA) perpetrated by staff at a tahfiz school. 

This goes to show that sexual assault can happen anywhere, including places of worship and education.

Schools, especially religious schools, can potentially enable sexual exploitation of children because of the unique intersections of unequal power dynamics between student and teacher. 

The teachers also have the privilege of being seen as models of society. 

This privilege when exploited, coupled with the vulnerability of victims, easily enables predators to perform acts of violations against the students and get off scot-free.

There has been an alarming increase in sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases involving minors

In 2016, the number of cases involving victims below 18 years of age was 1,358 for rape, 673 for outrage of modesty, 40 for sexual harassment and 193 for incest.

In the following year, the figures were 1,257 for rape, 453 for outrage of modesty, 21 for sexual harassment and 253 cases for incest.

Just in the month of September 2019 alone, through our free legal information and counselling services, Awam received four cases of SGBV against minors (below 18 years old), of which two cases involved children below the age of 12.

While the AG has the legal responsibility to ensure that avenues are explored, properly and correctly, to protect the rights of the child, the government plays a larger role in addressing and preventing CSA.

The Education, Health, and Women, Family and Community Development ministries must look into the incorporation of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) in the school syllabus for children as young as seven years old.

Children need to be aware that adults cannot violate them.

Children also need to know where to turn to for help should such a case of violation occur.

When sexual abuse occurs in childhood, it can hinder normal social growth. 

Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, and relationship problems. It is not just one person who is affected but the people around that child as well.

 

All Women’s Action Society (Awam)

Petaling Jaya





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