CASSA LAUDS ASIA’S FIRST – THANKS TO GOVT & PERMATA EFFORTS IN CHILD COURTS ESTABLISHMENT!
Advocates of child protections cannot but be delighted that in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) we have an international treaty that legally obligates countries to protect children’s rights.
If I am not mistaken – Articles 34 and 35 of the said convention protects children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
And among them, there are four key areas that are mentioned:
1. The outlawing of the coercion of a child to perform sexual activity.
2. The prostitution of children.
3. The exploitation of children in creating pornography.
4. States are also required to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children.
As of December 2014, 195 countries have ratified the Convention, including every member of the United Nations and it is inexplicable that both the United States and South Sudan have not!
Legislation against child sexual abuse varies by country based on the local definition of who is a child and what constitutes child sexual abuse.
However, despite some anomalies, most countries in the world employ some form of age of consent, with sexual contact with an underage person being criminally penalized.
But two striking agreement by most civilized nations is that an adult’s sexual intercourse with a minor below the legal age of consent is referred to as statutory rape based on the age old entrenched principle that any apparent consent by a minor could not be considered legal consent.
But despite so has these fundamentals prevent children from being victims to sexual crimes?
Are you aware that one child is raped in South Africa every three minutes, according to a 2009 report by trade union Solidarity Helping Hand?
A 2009 survey by the country’s Medical Research Council found that one in four men admits to raping someone, 62% of boys over 11 believe forcing someone to have sex is not an act of violence and a third believe girls enjoy rape, the Independent reported.
More than 67,000 cases of rape and sexual assaults against children were reported in 2000, according to press reports!
Very sadly, several of the victims were as young as six-months-old, a number of whom died from their injuries, while others contracted HIV.
Many people in South Africa believe that sex with a virgin can heal someone from HIV/AIDS.
Sadly in India, leading NGO Asian Centre for Human Rights in its 2013 report claims sexual offenses against children in India have reached epidemic proportion.
The report stated that more than 48,000 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011 and that India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2001 (2,113 cases) to 2011 (7,112 cases).
It is rather shocking sending chills down our spines to learn that over 48,838 children were raped in just 10 years.
We are old that it is rampant, indiscriminate and cuts across class, geography, culture and religion.
It happens in cities and villages, by fathers, brothers, relatives, neighbors, teachers and strangers!
In 2012, the Indian Parliament passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, which incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offenses.
According to a 2007 study by the Indian Government of nearly 12,500 children from across India, 53% of children – boys and girls equally – were victims of sexual abuse.
As for Zimbabwe, we are told by a Police spokesperson in 2012 that rape cases against children continued to increase countrywide.
In 2011, there were 3,172 rape cases of juveniles recorded countrywide, an increase from 2010, when 2,883 were reported.
On the ground in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, a clinic went on record to state that it had treated nearly 30,000 girls and boys who had been abused in the previous four years.
If one thought that was horrendous, in the United Kingdom, more than one in every 200 adults – are pedophiles, according to figures released by Scotland Yard in 2000.
In 2012/13, there were 18,915 sexual crimes against children under the age of 16 recorded in England and Wales, according to the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
Included in that figure were 4,171 offenses of sexual assault on a female child under 13 and 1,267 offenses of sexual assault on under-13 male children.
Other reports in the UK cite that one in 20 children (4.8%) have experienced contact sexual abuse and over 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse, were abused by someone they know.
If you thought that the United States of America were any better you are in for a shock!
Accordingly to the US based Children Assessment Centre (CAC), we are told that the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, but all agree that in 2014 there could have been over 500,000 babies born in the US, victims who were sexually abused before they turn 18!
The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 16% of young people aged 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized in that year, and over the course of their lifetime, 28% of young people in the US, aged 14 to 17, had been sexually victimized.
Shockingly again thanks to the CAC, we are told that adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
To them this means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the US!
In Malaysia, thanks to Police statistics over a two-year period – 2015 to end 2016, we had 2,759 cases of rape, 412 cases of incest, 1,423 cases of molest and 422 cases of unnatural sex involving victims below 18 years of age!
And as a leading consumerist, I have always argued for every such case reported, 10 goes unreported due to pressures exerted and non-reporting!
And today, with these international efforts and challenge, Malaysia cannot but be proud to launch the Special Court, a first in this region, to deal with sexual crimes against children, barely two months after legislation to establish it was passed in the last sitting by Parliament.
And in launching it, Malaysian premier, Najib Tun Razak was right on cue, when he stated at the Palace of Justice, that the said court was the first of its kind to be set up in Southeast Asia!
He reiterated that the agenda and vision of the said courts was to speed up all proceedings and trials of sexual crimes involving children!
The Premier went further and gave timelines, which were critical and crucial in maintaining, the thrust of its inception to settle all cases, that come to it no later than a year, compared with the current situation, when they sometimes stretch into years.
For the record, this Special Court is set up under the Child Sexual Offenses Act 2017, which also provides imprisonment for a maximum of 30 years, a fine of up to RM20, 000, plus a minimum of six lashes of the cane.
The offenses in the law cover child pornography, child grooming, physical and non-physical sexual violation, people in positions of trust or authority (such as family members and teachers) who are involved in or abet the crime, and placing child witnesses under duress.
As eluded by the Premier, it is now pertinent for the speedy establishment of a working committee to draft special guidelines to handle sexual crimes against children.
And as stated by Premier Najib, it is important and critical, that we should have oversight of this from dedicated, individuals from civil society, NGOs, grassroots groups, personalities from the courts, Attorney-General’s Chambers, ministry of women, family and community development!
This article will not be fair nor complete, if, we do not laud the noble efforts of the team at Permata, an early childhood educational programme, led by the Premier’s spouse, Rosmah Mansur, whose vision, contribution, and ideas, led to the concept of the witness room, which fulfills, the wishes and needs of child witnesses, to protect and insulate them from all forms of trauma during the process of litigation and other proceedings, as well, as in line, with global best practices in these efforts!