Malaysiakini Opinion

Why are official child sexual abuse stats still a state secret?

S Thayaparan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

"Girls who reached puberty as young as nine years old were physically and spiritually ready for marriage.”

Shabudin Yahaya, Tasek Gelugor MP

COMMENT | Last October, Azalina Othman Said, who was then minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said that no sexual crime cases involving children were protected under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA).

Yet, she said Section 15 of the Child Act 2001 prohibits any media report from including details that would lead to the identification of the children in any proceeding, regardless of whether they were victims, witnesses or suspects. Azalina said this when responding to Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto.

Patto later referred to a statement by Ong Chin Lan, the head of the police's sexual, women and children investigation division, in which Ong had said the police did not want people misinterpreting such information. Patto wrote: “This statement is highly irresponsible as the public must have this information to protect their children, families and their communities.”

Last month, Suriana Welfare Society executive director Scott Wong highlighted the fact that many in the country were ignorant of the sexual exploitation of children. He drew attention to the fact that official statistics sealed under the OSA hampered efforts to understand the issue.

Dominique Fernandes, writing for The Diplomat (about this OSA classification), also highlighted the case of convicted paedophile Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin who Mara thought deserved a “second chance.”

She asked: “But shouldn’t society be alarmed and coalesce to arrest the rise in cases before our moral fabric unravels?

"The spike in cases of sexual abuse against children is either a new phenomenon, the result of an inability to stop feelings of powerlessness present with increasing modernisation; or an age-old one, only uncovered as a result of society’s ever-lower tolerance to such offences. Both scenarios are equally worrying.”

Right now, our deputy prime minister and minister for Women, Family and Community Development is under sustained pressure to do something about the case that essentially legalises paedophilia...

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