THE fight against child sexual crimes in Malaysia is gaining momentum. Well, that may be something of an understatement considering that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak himself has made it clear that the Government will go all out to stop these heinous crimes.
On Monday, an outraged and resolute Najib vowed to put an end to child sexual crimes in the country, and added that the efforts would start with the tabling of the Child Sexual Offences Bill later this month.
A special court would be set up to deal with such offences, he said when opening a two-day seminar that was part of a campaign called Jenayah Seksual Kanak-Kanak: Hentikan!! (Child Sexual Crimes: Stop It!!).
He emphasised that the Government would ensure the proposed law is effective, comprehensive and holistic.
That is a key point. Many initiatives kick off with the best and most heartfelt intentions, but to keep going, they must have sound strategies, a solid legal framework and smooth execution.
To deter child sexual crimes, it is important that the cases are investigated and the predators brought to justice. For that to happen, those in authority must know about the plight of the victims. And this is often the weak link.
According to the police, there were 7,862 cases of sexual crimes against children between 2014 and last year. That is an annual average of 2,620, and these are only reported cases.
It is reasonable to assume that many more such crimes have remained dark, hideous secrets. As long as child sexual crimes continue to be “silent crimes”, halting them is an uphill battle.
Patron of the Permata programmes Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who has been championing the cause and the Hentikan!! campaign, said at the seminar on Monday that it is the collective responsibility of society to promote awareness of these crimes.
As she pointed out, many cases go unreported because children were afraid and families want to protect their reputation and honour.
In his speech, Najib said many still failed to recognise the threat of child sexual crimes because the topic was “considered taboo or sensitive”.
“But it’s important to teach children what is appropriate and inappropriate, and that their body belongs to them alone,” he added.
Beyond that, children need to know what to do if they unfortunately fall prey to sex offenders. There is a lot for the victims to overcome, and they can do with all the help and support they can get.
Police statistics show that in almost 90% of the cases of sexual crimes against children, the victims knew the alleged perpetrators. That alone can be a huge deterrent against reporting the crimes.