THE recent passing of the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 is a giant leap in protecting children against sexual crimes, but it shouldn’t end there

THE recent passing of the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 is a giant leap in protecting children against sexual crimes.

Similarly, we must give emphasis to tabling a stringent bill against mental and emotional child abuse, which constitutes serious misconduct against the child because, sometimes, child abuse does not leave physical scars.

As the child’s mind is simpler, parents and relatives can overly influence a child to the extent of causing mental and emotional distress, leaving the child a “slave” to circumstances.

A child is prone to believing in exaggerated stories and may be blamed in any given situation, so much so the abuser can easily control the child’s mind. In the end, the child thinks that everything is his fault.

This is apparent in less than amicable divorce cases, in which each party washes their dirty linen in public and the child is used as a pawn in disputes.

An aggrieved parent will get less than what he bargained for, including not having child custody or visitation rights.

Some divorced parents take out their frustration on the child, to the extent that the child’s well-being is affected.

Normally, the court decides that custody goes to the mother, while the father pays child maintenance and alimony but gets visitation rights, or the child is permitted of his or her own free will to visit the father.

In a situation where the mother gets custody, child maintenance and alimony, the father is inherently in a less than favourable position in the aftermath since a child’s developmental years are psychologically better spent with the mother.

A revamped child abuse bill should be introduced to include higher fines, jail time and caning for the parent who subjects a child to mental and emotional abuse.

Without the constraints of a statute of limitations with regard to time, the abusive parent is inherently forced to behave when the child is growing up and would prevent abuses in adulthood.

The parent who has to pay maintenance may hide assets when alimony and child maintenance are being discussed in court.

Assets can be transferred to other parties with an undertaking to transfer these back when the child reaches adulthood or the expiry of the statute of limitations.

Therefore, the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 must be strengthened to enable the child to claim the underpayment of child maintenance due to under-declaration of assets when the child reaches adulthood.

Similarly, alimony can be enhanced if there is any misreporting of assets by the former husband, even if this is found out years later.

Our Penal Code also needs to be enhanced to give more rights to children who are abused by giving them a voice to dictate how each parent should behave, to have the right to be treated properly and free from quarrels between parents.

Family members who witness and have knowledge of child abuse must be held liable for not reporting such abuses.

Punishment must be strict on family members who assist one party to conceal assets. It is worth considering fining, jailing or caning family members who have knowledge of wrongdoing, but do nothing about it.

Such draconian penalties can be a deterrent and will ensure that a child is protected and treated with dignity and respect.

NG SHU TSUNG

Kuala Lumpur

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