OVER the last few years, there has been a spate of sexual crimes involving children throughout the country.
A majority of these crimes were committed by male relatives. One case was a 36-year-old father charged with sodomising, raping and sexually abusing his teenage daughter more than 600 times over two years.
The enormity of the sexual abuse is reflected in the two days it took the Special Court for Sexual Crimes Against Children in Putrajaya to read out all the charges. This “Monster Dad”, as people have come to call him, was yesterday sentenced to 48 years’ jail and ordered to be given 24 strokes of the rotan.
There are some who argue that sexual crime is not only an issue in Malaysia. Admittedly, they do happen in Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, which have high quality of life. But, that is missing the point. Malaysia’s statistics on child sexual abuse are alarming.
According to a Reuters special report on sexual crime released in April, only 140 of 12,987 cases of child sexual abuse reported to police between 2012 and last year had resulted in conviction. There are many reasons for this low rate. One factor is the difficulty in gathering evidence. Given the taboo attached to sexual crimes between family members, very few agree to speak up. The trauma is inestimable.
Some form of counselling programme will go a long way to help alleviate the situation. What can we as a nation and people do to put a stop to this menace?
The government has adopted a number of measures to prevent sexual abuse through law enforcement. One such measure is the setting up of the Special Court for Sexual Crimes Against Children in Putrajaya this year. Plans are afoot to establish similar courts in other parts of the country to speed up hearing on the growing number of sexual abuse cases against children. Another was the passing of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act. Lawmakers may need to explore ways to tighten the enforcement mechanism in place to make it easier to convict sexual offenders.
The first line of defence in preventing sexual crimes is to ensure that vulnerable children do not fall prey to family members or relatives. The adage “prevention is better than cure” has a useful lesson here.
Mothers must ensure that their daughters, especially those of vulnerable age, are not left alone in the house. Neighbours and other members of the community must lend a hand to keep children safe. Society at large has a role to play as well. To begin with, religious teachers and community leaders need to enhance their efforts in providing guidance in moral and religious values. This should not be restricted to schools, but must be taken beyond to the community as a whole. Religious and moral education is a very critical element in eliminating this menace. If we are serious about getting rid of “Monster Dads” and similar menaces, we must act as a community to keep the country safe for our children.