Child abuse is a form of violence on a hapless human being who is unable to seek the necessary help and protection. It is therefore imperative that stern action be taken on perpetrators of abuse and violence on children as a protective and preventive measure. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development takes this issue very seriously and will not hesitate to take legal action on those found guilty of causing harm, injury and death on children. Child abuse is an offence under Section 31 of the Child Act 2001 whereby a person found guilty of such an offence can be fined not more than RM20,000 or jailed for not more than 10 years or both. For cases of child abuse resulting in death, such cases are usually charged under the Penal Code as culpable homicide and punishable by death.
Abuse or violence on children should not be allowed to happen and every one of us as members of society has a role to play. Neighbours, family members, relatives, friends, teachers, child minders and child carers have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of children by reporting cases of abuse immediately.
The Department of Social Welfare has always placed paramount focus on the safety of children. The National Child Policy and The National Child Protection Policy were approved by the Cabinet on 29th July 2009. Both these policies ensure the rights of children to survival, protection (from all forms of neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation), development and participation. They also provide guidelines to the various agencies, non-governmental organizations, volunteers and community to work together to ensure that children grow up in a safe and conducive environment.
When a child complains that “someone touched me”, the person to whom the child complained should take the matter seriously and immediately call the Department of Social Welfare, Police or Talian Nur 15999 so that action can be taken to rescue the child. Children at young ages do not lie about such matters. A child who is abused will be traumatized and will need counseling and professional intervention by a child psychologist or psychiatrist. Non-abusing parents usually keep silent about the abuse because of fear, hopelessness and isolation or lack of support from other family members.
The media, both print and electronic, has a significant role to play in continuing with the efforts to sensitize members of the public on the various avenues to report incidences of child abuse. Billboards, posters, flyers, crawlers and other forms of reminders are also effective.
SHAHRIZAT ABDUL JALIL