SEXUAL OFFENCES AGAINST CHILDREN BILL TABLED FOR FIRST READING
2nd, 3rd readings to be done during current session, says minister
THE Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat here yesterday by Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.
Azalina informed the house that the second and third reading of the bill would be done during this parliamentary session.
This act will be applicable to all children under 18. Key provisions include a section on extra-territorial application in which all Malaysian children will be protected against perpetrators, including Malaysians or foreigners.
This bill can be used against any Malaysian who committed such offences “against a child in any place” outside of the country.
Credibility and evidence of child witness
In this part of the bill, it is stated that a child’s statements and evidence will be prioritised in cases that lack evidence as “a child is to be competent to give evidence”.
“... the court may allow for the uncorroborated evidence of a child, given upon oath or otherwise, be admissible,” the bill read.
Clauses 13 and 14 of the act state that it is an offence if a person “sexually communicates”, or “meets a child for sexual purposes”.
The bill sets out to define child grooming as “any person who communicates by any means with a child for the intention of committing an offence under the act”, and carries a maximum punishment of five years’ jail and caning upon conviction.
Under this act, any person who either sexually communicates or encourages a child to do the same can be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
“However, no person shall be convicted for an offence under this section if the communication is for education, scientific or medical purposes.”
The proposed law defines sexual assault as both physical and non-physical.
This would mean that the act can also be used for sexual harassment.
“A person is deemed to have sexually assaulted a child for sexual purposes if he or she touches any part of a child’s body, or makes a child touch any part of the person’s body or other person’s body, or makes a child touch any part of his own body.”
Clause 16 provides punishments for a person with sexual motives who utters any words, makes a sound or any gestures or exhibits parts of his body intentionally.
Clause 4 of the act states that a person has committed an offence if he either engages, appears in, makes, produces, helps with the preparation, sells or accesses child pornography.
Making, producing and directing child pornography will see the person punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 years and not less than six strokes of the rotan.
The bill further specifies failure to report a sexual abuse case involving a child as a punishable offence, with those found guilty being liable to a RM5,000 fine.
The sexual crimes bill was fasttracked following pressure from civil groups and the public to immediately enact laws that would provide greater protection to children, particularly against online grooming.
Currently, only the Child Act 2001 contains provisions against sexual exploitation and neglect of children, with its most recent amendment last year increasing jail sentences to a maximum of 20 years and a RM50,000 fine for certain offences.