Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who is heading the task force, said the review is needed in light of new forms of child sexual crimes enabled by digital technology.
“What is obvious is that we may need a special Act to address sexual violence against children, not just refer to the Penal Code for the offences,” said Azalina.
“There must be confidence in the system. There are existing laws for certain perpetrators or acts of violence against children. But the adequacy of such law must be studied,” she said.
The review will also look into how evidence and statements are taken from young victims of sexual crimes.
“We will also look into the court’s proceedings whereby the judges and prosecutors need to be experts in child sexual crime and abuse cases,” she said after a meeting of the task force yesterday.
Also on the task force is child advocate Madeleine Yong, director of non-profit organisation Protect and Save the Children.
Yong said NGOs involved in child rights see the focus on child sexual crimes by the Government as a huge step in the right direction.
“It’s fantastic that there’s an initiative by the Prime Minister’s Department. I’m interested to see how the criminal justice system will be improved because the conviction rate has to increase,” said Yong.
“We really need to start tightening our laws and enforcement to deal with serious crimes that are beginning or have been taking place in Malaysia.”
Social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who has been championing the fight against child sexual abuse on social media, was also present at the meeting.
“I think this is something the public would very much look forward to. As for the legislation, the NGOs involved have provided enough comparative studies for the lawyers to look into.
“But I also think that it’s really important that the Education Ministry be part of the task force as well,” said Syed Azmi.
Azalina said the task force also discussed laws on online grooming, a new phenomenon in child sexual crimes recently exposed by R.AGE’s Predator In My Phone (rage.com.my/predator) undercover documentary series.
“These are the changes in scenario because we are in 2016. It’s not just physical (crimes) now. It’s both online and offline,” she said.
The task force includes representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Royal Malaysia Police, Bar Council, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and NGOs.
It will regroup after a two-week research period.