Malaysia: Tougher Laws Not Enough to Combat Pedophilia, Doctors Say

Haireez Azeem Aziz
Kuala Lumpur
160610-MY-Huckle-1000 Convicted British child sex-abuser Richard Huckle allegedly took pictures of kidsplaying in the streets of this Kuala Lumpur neighborhood,June 3, 2016.

Pediatricians in Malaysia are calling for more effective measures to prevent sexual abuse of children after a British pedophile who preyed on up to 200 Malaysian children was jailed for life by a court in London this week.

Following the conviction of Richard Huckle, who had admitted to 71 charges of sex abuse against children from the ages of six months to 12 years old, Malaysian officials have assured the public that parliament was considering tightening laws against child abuse.

But the country's pediatricians said legal action and punishment alone were not sufficient.

"We need preventive measures in the form of parenting skills on child safety, sex education in schools, educating children themselves on protecting themselves from potential sexual predators,” Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) President N. Thiyagar told BenarNews.

Huckle is believed to have targeted as many as 200 children over a span of nine years, posing as a photographer, English teacher and Western philanthropist to gain access to impoverished families, mostly in Malaysia, according to reports.

According to Malaysian officials, most of Huckle’s victims were from impoverished Christian communities in the capital Kuala Lumpur, where he had worked as an English teacher and Christian charity worker.

Thiyagar said Huckle’s case underscored the need for “stringent vetting and screening methods in recruiting volunteers,” while parents needed to be reminded and educated about child safety.

“We need to conduct awareness campaigns on child safety against sexual offenders to the public. Children must be taught the basic stranger-danger rules such as never to accept gifts from a stranger or go anywhere with a stranger,” he said.

He suggested that safety of children be part of pre-school and school curriculums in sex education.

Malaysia does not teach sex education in schools.

In a joint statement this week, The MPA and the College of Paediatrics Malaysia said that two-thirds of pedophiles were known to children.

According to the statement, pedophiles often disguise themselves as volunteers for agencies dealing with children.

"They will establish themselves in a position of trust to remain close to their victims; the children. Statistics indicate that your child could be more at risk from someone they do know than from a complete stranger; in relation to pedophiles, two-thirds of pedophiles are known to children."

The Huckle case has raised an outcry among Malaysians on social media.
Even Prime Minister Najib Razak voiced his anger and sadness about the case on Facebook, saying “Malaysians should heed lessons” from it.

Moves to toughen child-sex penalties

The government, meanwhile, said it was proposing to enact new legislation specifically for dealing with pedophiles.

“This is to allow investigations and prosecution of pedophile sexual offenders even when they commit the crimes in other countries,” the state news agency Bernama quoted Deputy Home Affairs Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed as saying.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri also announced that amendments were being made to a current law against child abuse.

But Lee Lam Thye, vice-chairman of the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation, said approval and passage of amendments to the Child Act should be made during the current sitting of parliament "so that we can take care of the needs of children, protect their rights and put a stop to child abuse and parental negligence."

A bill seeking the amendments had been tabled for debate in December.

The amendments would mean stiffer action against those who abuse or neglect children, Lee said.

The proposal carries a heavier penalty of a fine of up to 50,000 ringgit (U.S. $12,252) and a maximum jail sentence of 20 years for those convicted of child abuse. Under the present act, child abuse is punishable with a fine of no more than 10,000 ringgit (U.S. $2,450) and imprisonment of up to 10 years.

The proposal also includes setting up a proposed registry of perpetrators who commit crimes against children, and establishing a National Council for Children to advise and make recommendations to the government on issues pertaining to children.

The registry would include details of foreign pedophiles who have committed offenses in Malaysia, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Azizah Mohd Dun said, according to the new Straits Times.

A task force was being set up to look into the details and mechanism of the registry, a ministry official said. At present, records of those convicted and the offenses were kept by police, the report said.

Fahirul N. Ramli contributed to this report.


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