PETALING JAYA: Malaysia made some milestone decisions in law this year in protecting the rights of children and ensuring innocent people are not sent to the gallows.
Parliament enacted a new law to protect children from being subjected to sexual abuses physically and online.
The Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 comprehensively covers all aspects including corroboration of evidence for child victims and setting up a special court for child sexual offences nationwide.
The law received wide support of lawmakers from both political divides, civil societies, human rights activists and the public.
Amending the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 to remove the mandatory death sentence and return full discretion to judges was applauded by international civil societies and seen as a precursor to abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia.
Parliament has replaced capital punishment with life imprisonment and a minimum of 15 strokes of the cane for drug traffickers.
However, much political will is needed to ensure the rights of every citizen is protected in terms of religious freedom, which is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
The amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 was another much awaited legislation in the hopes of ending the unfair unilateral conversion of children.
It took the minority races and human rights activists by shock when the government withdrew the tabled bill to remove Section 88A – the very provision that bans unilateral conversion.
Section 88A, which speaks on the religion of the child, states in the event a non-Muslim parent converts to Islam, the children will remain in their original religion.
It was removed because the clause was conflicting with the provision of the Federal Constitution that allows one parent or a guardian to decide the religion of a child below 18 years old.
The government had said that a two-thirds majority is needed if it wants to amend this provision in the Federal Constitution.
It then used this subject as a means to fish for a two-thirds majority in Parliament if people wanted to end unilateral conversion.
Taking into consideration the plights of the retrenched workers, the Employment Insurance System Act was enacted to protect their welfare and aid them till re-employment.
Other laws include the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Amendment) Bill 2017, Self-Employment Social Security Bill 2017, Malaysian Border Security Agency Bill 2017, Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2017, Tourism Tax Act 2017, Private Healthcare Facilities and Services 2017 and Care Centres (Amendment) Bill 2017.
In total, Parliament passed 45 bills in this 13th sitting.