By : SARAH SABARATNAM
Violence against children is on the rise. SARAH SABARATNAM tackles the topic of how to put a halt to the crimes.
WHEN a child dies of severe physical abuse or a young girl is brutally raped and murdered — as in the case of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin — it is bound to make headlines.
The uproar is immediate, but eventually everything is back to normal, and we forget the many children who routinely face violence.Everyday, at some corner in this country, under a tent or a roof or in a patch of grass, an adult unleashes his explosive, brutal, savage self on a powerless toddler.
And what defence can the feeble child muster? Between January and July this year, statistics from the police showed that 116 children between the ages of one and seven were physically abused.
Another 37 were just babies, not yet reaching their first birthday.
Precious, innocent lives are being ravaged and rampaged by people who should know better; 50 of this year’s offenders were parents of the victims.
The number of reported sexual crimes against children below the age of 18 is even more horrifying.
Last year, there were 269 cases of incest, 876 cases of modesty being outraged, 122 cases of sodomy and 1,708 cases of statutory rape against children below the age of 18.
Such violence leaves physical, emotional and psychological scars with severe implications for a child’s development, health and ability to learn.
This is why The World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, commemorated all over the world today, is of great significance. It is a time to mull, chew and contemplate on how effective we have been in preventing abusive crimes against children. “It is a situation that can become normal in our lives,” says James Nayagam, executive director for Shelter, a registered welfare organisation that helps abused, abandoned, neglected or at-risk children.
“In light of the gruesome things that have happened recently, there is a lot of concern and we need to take stock of what we are doing and what we need to do. It is time to consolidate, to see how effective we are in dealing with this violence.”
Nayagam says there have been glaring warning signs that people are getting more violent. After Nurin’s cruel murder, there was a realisation that the Child Act had not been fully implemented and that there was a need for a Child Protection Policy. “In typical Malaysian manner, we only take action when something happens.
Only after people die tragically are issues raised.” Shaking his head, he mutters, “somewhere along the line, we are not committed enough.” He laments that there is not enough finances to improve the system, be it protecting abused children, admitting them (abused children) into hospitals, raising awareness, stepping up police investigation and providing recreational and communal facilities in lower income neighbourhoods. He also wishes that there is a continuity in the handling of issues at the ministerial level when there is a changing of the guards.
“We are still discussing the same issues about children that we were talking about 20years ago. The dialogue must go on, only then can there be progress.”
Last year, the UN General Assembly was told that the best way to deal with violence against children is to stop it before it happens. Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert appointed to lead the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children said: “Everyone has a role to play in this, but countries must take the primary responsibility. That means prohibiting all kinds of violence against children, wherever it occurs and whoever is the perpetrator, and investing in prevention programmes to address the underlying causes.
People must be held accountable for their actions but a strong legal framework is not only about sanctions; it is about sending a robust, unequivocal signal that society will not accept violence against children.”
Yes, today is a day to take stock.The ever increasing statistics suggest that we are lagging behind in efforts to protect children from violence. “As we climb the mountain of a problem, there has to be stations where we have a review of the laws and its workability,” says Nayagam. “Are we on track?”
- New Straits Times