COMMENT I welcome the news of a newly-established Child Registry database to record names of child sex offenders that has been set up by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. Malaysians have waited for a long 10 years for a Sexual Offenders Registry to be established.
However, more has to be done. A more serious registry to protect the most vulnerable has to be established. Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed had also voiced out that it is high time that our country sets up a Sex Offenders Registry.
The present sentencing of whipping and prison sentences do not seem to reduce the number of sexual offences in our country. There is an average of 3,000 rape cases reported in Malaysia every year which also means that a women, regardless of age and race fallen into the hands of sexual predators as rape victims every 35 minutes. What is even more worrying is that most of the rape cases involve children below the age of 16.
With news of the return of convicted Malaysian rapist, Selva Kumar Subbiah from Canada, Malaysians of all parts of the society have voiced out their concerns. With the Child Registry, it seems only that child sex offenders are being registered.
How about non-child sex offenders? Do they get registered? What is the process of registration and de-registration? Who may access the registry? How do we prevent abuse of the registry while using it to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable groups in our society?
Why track them?
It is important that sexual offenders are registered in a centralised system to monitor their movement. No doubt, former convicts have their rights to a free movement. However, anti-social behaviours such as a sexual crime which not only disrupt the harmony of the society but also endanger lives of the most vulnerable in our society must be treated with utter seriousness.
Stiffer procedures such as this serve both as a deterrent for would-be perpetrators and as a protection to those who are highly at risk against actual exploitation.
There is a need to push for a full previous Sexual Offenders Registry in the country. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the USA have long established such a registry to protect those who are vulnerable to sexual predators.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) Malaysia has last year, repeated urgings to establish a registry to register sex offenders following reports of the arrest of Richard Huckle for sexual abuse and exploitation of Malaysian children.
The registry allows parents, employers and industry players who are working with vulnerable groups to check on their employees and the people around them. Vulnerable victims include children, boys and girls alike, women, and people with disabilities.
Cut down procedures
In the United Kingdom, the child sex offender disclosure scheme allows parents, carers and also guardians of children to formally ask the police to tell them if a person is being recorded for child sexual offenders.
In Malaysia, though it is commendable that the Child Registry allows employers to check if their potential employee has a record for child sex offences, it is however, a tedious process. At present employers can access to the registry by a request to the Social Welfare Department director-general.
Such a procedure would take days if not weeks and months to process. This however is different wfrom the United Kingdom’s scheme where parents and employers would be able to get the answer available across all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
In the United Kingdom, anyone who is seeking further information on the scheme can do it at his or her local police force. Measures are taken to ensure that the scheme and registry is not being abused.
Any disclosure by the police has to be kept as confidential information whereby it can only be used to keep their child safe. Legal action may be taken against anyone who breaches this confidential information. Furthermore, anyone who is not willing to sign the warning to the breach would be considered by the police on whether to allow such disclosure.
Though steps are being taken to protect our children and those vulnerable, measures too, have to be in place to help ensure that the registry is not being abused.