LETTER | It pains me to admit that there is a distressing lack of urgency at preventing sexual abuse - and more so when it involves children.
The lack of awareness that exists about child sexual abuse paints a heart-breaking reality that is nauseating and made worse when we face the blatant political apathy at the hands of the federal powers.
Abuse comes in so many forms and while our present system focuses on criminalising the perpetrators, the same amount of focus should be given to the prevention of criminal acts before these happen.
During the Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month reign in Putrajaya, the child sex offenders registry was further enhanced and more than 3,000 paedophiles were put in the registry by April 2019 (less than a month after its official launch). Prior to that, the registry only contained 326 offenders.
Needless to say, such a move is much needed as this is a way we can keep our neighbourhoods, schools, daycare centres and religious institutions safe. However, very little progress has been made under the current administration, even though there have been numerous bi-partisan calls and suggestions on how improvements can be made.
Recently, Ain Husniza (the Malaysian teenager who called out one of her teachers for making inappropriate rape jokes in class) exposed the distressing culture of ‘pedo-sexuality’ via comments made on a social media app.
Numerous repulsive comments were called out and all of them were sexual in nature – directed at prepubescent children. It is an open secret that child grooming and paedophilia are becoming quite common in Malaysia.
The arrests of Alladin Lanim and Richard Huckle proves that there is something sorely lacking in Malaysia as these two paedophiles were arrested using foreign intelligence (the former was successfully hunted down by Australian enforcement while the latter was arrested in the UK).
While, the Sexual Offences Against Children Act (SOACA) provides some glimmer of hope, what is also equally important is shifting society’s cultural mindset pertaining to the nature of such abuses.
According to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, 1,721 cases of sexual crimes against children were recorded from January to June 30, 2020.
Furthermore, based on statistics from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), in 2020 there were 651 rape cases, 344 molest cases, 106 incest cases, 106 unnatural sex cases and 514 cases for offences under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 (Act 792).
What strongly suggests the subtle normalisation of pedo-sexuality is how our present system lacks a centralised, cohesive decision on child marriage.
While Malaysia has two separate laws – syariah and civil laws, the age-old excuse of ‘suka sama suka’ or even comments on a young girl’s physical development, despite her extremely young age, leaves many of us appalled and troubled.
We have seen such comments thrown around during heated debates in Parliament and in State Assemblies, and despite nationwide campaigns to outlaw the practice of child marriage, Malaysia still witnesses a worrying increase of numbers over the years.
When Malaysian student Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin was arrested in the UK (while studying at the Imperial College of London) for possession and production of child pornography, he was secretly brought back to Malaysia and surprisingly, offered a placement in a local university to continue his post-graduate degree.
In an interview, one of his university lecturers even expressed sympathy towards him even though he acknowledged the sickening acts Nur Fitri desired towards children. The way our society has been conditioned to downplay the severity of how certain people associate children with sexuality is repulsive and if we are serious about protecting our nation’s greatest assets – our children – more needs to be done.
Paedophilia is the feeling of attraction towards children and pedosexuality is in fact a sexual disorder. Regardless of what excuses are given, paedophilia is never consensual because there is often a substantial amount of emotional manipulation that occurs.
The attention given to the horrific effects of child abuse is sometimes ignored. Therefore, as adults within any just society, we need to continue to publicly discuss how these affect our society, reaffirm our united stand against such vile acts and emphasise our vows to further protect our children.
SYERLEENA ABDUL RASHID is the State Assemblyperson for Seri Delima in Penang. She is also Penang DAP assistant publicity secretary and DAP Wanita national executive committee member.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.