The issue concerning child neglect in this country is not new as there as been many similar incidents involving parental or guardian neglect.
Recently, the nation was shocked, horrified, and angered over the incident involving a three-year-old who fell from an escalator at Kompleks Bukit Jambul in George Town, Penang.
It was reported that the father, who was carrying the girl on his shoulders, suddenly tilted his head, causing the child to fall from a height of three metres.
Time after time, we have to read sad and horrible news over the issue on child neglect.
The main concern now is how this can happen in a country with many laws protecting child welfare and interest.
In this regard, it worth to note that Malaysia has enacted the Child Act 2001 [Act 611] to fulfill its obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC) in order to protect the welfare of the children below the age of 18.
Act 611, enacted and enforced in 2011, is regarded as a comprehensive act addressing the issue on child welfare.
With the introduction of Act 611, the government repealed the Juvenile Courts Act 1947 [Act 90], the Women and Girls Protection Act 1973 [Act 106] and the Child Protection Act 1991 [Act 468].
Act 611 also provides particular sections dealing specifically with the ill-treatment, neglect, abandonment or exposure of children where according to Section 31, any person who, being a person having the care of a child
(a) Abuses, neglects, abandons or exposes the child in a manner likely to cause him physical or emotional injury or causes or permits him to be so abused, neglected, abandoned or exposed or;
(b) Sexually abuses the child or causes or permits him to be so abused, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to both.
Last July, the government gazetted the Child Act (Amendment) 2015, providing for a comprehensive structure for the Act in protecting the safety and welfare of the children in the our country.
The new amendment also provides heavier penalty for those found guilty of abusing, exploiting or neglecting children. The penalty was raised to RM50,000 and the prison sentence was increased to 20 years.
Such amendment need to be enforced immediately without delay in order to send a strong reminder to all parents and guardians in the country not to take the safety and welfare of the children lightly.
Besides strengthening the law, the relevant ministry as well the non-governmental bodies must work together to increase the level of awareness and educate all parents and guardian about their basic responsibility and sacred duties to protect their own children from any harm or danger.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW is a senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah & Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim).