Report ranks Malaysia 23rd in protecting children from sexual exploitation

Kavenagh said Malaysia was considered as having a relatively stable and safe environment for children but there were specific and contextual factors that exacerbate children’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation. — AFP pic
Kavenagh said Malaysia was considered as having a relatively stable and safe environment for children but there were specific and contextual factors that exacerbate children’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Among 60 countries, Malaysia ranks 23rd in the Out of the Shadows Index which examines how countries are responding to the threat of sexual violence against children.

The report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows, within South-east Asia, Malaysia with a total score of 54.5 is ahead of Cambodia and Indonesia with a score of 53.7 and 47.6 respectively, but behind the Philippines (56.7).

The first-edition report evaluated four different categories including environment, whereby Malaysia scored 64 out of 100, legal framework (68), government commitment and capacity (39) and engagement of industry, civil society and media (55).

Mark Kavenagh, Head of Research and Policy for ECPAT International, said Malaysia was considered as having a relatively stable and safe environment for children but there were specific and contextual factors that exacerbate children’s vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

“This includes social norms and values, and a tradition of shame and silence around the topic of sex which can inhibit quality and practical sexual education and allow sexual abuse to occur unreported,” he said at the report’s launching event co-organised by ECPAT and End CSEC Network Malaysia, today.

Despite being a moderate Muslim nation, Kavenagh said Malaysia had been taking some conservative approaches that impact the progress on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse and exploitation, some of which contributes to the continued practice of child marriage.

Therefore, he said the country needs to improve its awareness training, as well as upgrading sexual and reproductive health education and gender-based attitudes on sexual exploitation of children.

The report also highlighted that Malaysia has adequate laws against offences such as child rape, purchasing sexual services from children, procuring children for sexual activities, trafficking children and grooming children online, which granted the country with 68 scores.

However, there is a lack of confidence in the efforts of law enforcement and the judicial system to implement and provide protection where Malaysia only scored 39, the lowest indicator among four categories.

On the efforts of industry, civil society and media, the report praised Malaysia’s private sector for focusing predominantly on issues related to online child exploitation. However, beyond online, they don’t seem committed against child trafficking for sexual purposes.

Also present at the event today were End CSEC Network Malaysia Chairperson Datuk Raj Abdul Karim, Suhakam Child Rights Commissioner Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Under Secretary Chua Choon Hwa, Bukit Aman Sexual Women and Children’s Crime Department deputy director-general ACP Choo Lily and Novotel Kuala Lumpur City Centre General Manager Susan Anthony.

On another development, Raj said there was a growing concern on the aspect of sexual exploitation of children during the tourism season especially during the upcoming Visit Malaysia 2020 next year, adding that more awareness is needed to protect the children.

“This is sort of recent phenomena that we bring out to the public to make them understand that we need safe and clean tourism, especially next year when we are having 2020 Visit Malaysia. The tourist that come in should be genuine, whether they are coming for professional reasons, travels or leisure or study.

“We want to bring more awareness that we need to protect our children during travel and tourism. So, we have to inform the travel agencies, airlines and all those in the industry of travel and tourism as well as the hotels,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the enforcement to combat sexual exploitation, Choo said it should not be relied solely on the police.

“While we are trying to enforce and investigate those offences, there are some constraints that we have to face. Most of these offences are online-related, and we don’t have legislation to mandate agencies such as telcos and communication commission to cooperate with us.

“We still have to go through the act of writing officially to these agencies for particular address, IP address, owner’s phone number. It is actually time consuming, sometimes we have to wait for a month or more,” she added. — Bernama

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