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KUCHING, Nov 4: Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) called on all parties to have a better understanding of the interpretations behind the Child Act and the Sexual Offences Against Children (SOAC) Act so that implementing the Act will resonate with its original objectives.
A member of SWWS, Gill Raja, pointed out that from the outset, the intention of the SOAC Act was to protect children from adults including those operating on the “dark web” distributing child pornography.
“It was not meant to criminalise activity of a sexual nature between consenting teens beyond existing laws and those who had lobbied for the Act were reassured by the Attorney General’s Chambers that discretion would be used when both were children,” she said in a statement today
Gill was referring to a recent case involving two Sibu teens, 15 and 16 years old, in what appeared to have been a consensual relationship, have been charged under this Act because the boy touched the girl on her breasts and she then sent him a photo of the encounter.
This youthful indiscretion, she added, has surprisingly been classified as “self-production” of child pornography.
“SWWS is very concerned by this interpretation and calls for more training for police and the public prosecution department on this new Act, so its implementation meets the original intentions, and that they are given the resources needed to catch paedophiles.
“Sharing an intimate photo with her boyfriend is not what was in the legislators’ mind when they drafted Section 5 to catch paedophiles,” said Gill who has worked in child protection.
Emphasising that the Act was there for the police to go after individuals and sophisticated criminal networks who were exploiting children, she said it was not to catch teens who were learning how to handle their sexual urges.
“This is clear as the maximum sentence is 30 years and six strokes for producing pornography. We need to equip the police so they are better able to catch such predators wherever they lurk,” she added.
The young teens, she continued, pleaded guilty and are now awaiting a welfare report before appearing in court again.
“As they are under 18, they are subjected to the Child Act as amended in 2016. This legislation was amended to help authorities divert children away from custodial sentencing to being guided in their own communities.
“In the spirit of this legislation, such behaviour should not result in children being brought before the courts,” she pointed out.
SWWS thus called on all parties to have a better understanding of the intentions behind both Acts and helpfully guide youth rather than use such heavy-handed measures when no abuse has taken place.
“More appropriate is to give teens training on how to form healthy, respectful relationships, avoid the risk of teenage pregnancy, to know the dangers of using social media and most importantly, to have adults willing to listen to them empathetically and help them find their way in life,” she added.
Meanwhile, the government had passed the SOAC Act in 2017 after the country had been rocked by the news that the serial paedophile Richard Huckle from Britain had operated undetected for years in Kuala Lumpur with it being estimated he had abused 200 girls in Malaysia and elsewhere.
Malaysia was further shocked by a video taken by young Malaysian undercover journalists of local men using social media to befriend young girls with the intention of entrapping them into sexual encounters. – DayakDaily