KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 — The proposed amendments to the Child Act 2001 are to observe the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) that Malaysia signed in 1995, according to the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.
Policy Division Secretary Dr Waitchalla V Suppiah said the Child Act (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was tabled during the last Parliamentary sitting, would see more child participation in the ministry’s policy making, punishments that focus more on community service, and the reduction of institutionalisation of minors.
“Best interest of the child is already incorporated. Survivability as well as development is also incorporated. So if you look at all the principles within the CRC, it is all incorporated within our proposed amendments,” she told reporters here at the Social Institute of Malaysia.
“That is one of the reasons why we are amending the act, to take into account the CRC.”
The existing Act was criticised by civil society for lacking in compliance to the CRC especially last year, which marked twenty years of Malaysia being a signatory.
The ministry’s legal adviser Zahida Zakaria added that the amendments also took into account provisions from the CRC that Malaysia had previously expressed reservations, such as corporal punishment.
“Even though there is no decision yet for Malaysia to leave the reservation on [the article pertaining to corporal punishment], there is already a move in the amendment for whipping to be removed as a punishment for convicted children,” she said.
Malaysia has yet to agree to five issues in the CRC, namely Article 2, pertaining to non-discrimination; Article 7, pertaining to birth registration and nationality; Article 14, pertaining to freedom of thought and religion, Article 28(1)(a), pertaining to compulsory and free primary education for all; and Article 37, pertaining to torture, cruel and inhuman, or degrading treatment and punishment.
Putrajaya cited that the five CRC provisions do “not conform with the Constitution, national laws and national policies of the Government of Malaysia, including the Syariah law” as reasons for its reservations.
However, Waitchalla confirmed that studies are being conducted by the ministry on how best to resolve the reservations.
“The research would look into what were the repercussions if the reservations were lifted, against what would happen if it remained,” she said.
The amendments, which also include tougher punishments on child trafficking and parental negligence, were tabled in Parliament in December last year, and is expected to go through its second and third readings in March.