ABOUT nine months ago, the team at R.AGE was back in the office setting up its first burner phone, hoping to lure a sex predator or two to respond to our fake WeChat profile – an underage girl named Michelle.
Fast forward to last week – over 70 sex predators, 15 sting operations, five burner phones and 1.6 MILLION views of our Predator In My Phone video series later – we found ourselves standing in front of a government task force, presenting our findings and recommendations.
To quote the great Ron Burgundy, well, that escalated quickly.
Sure, when that burner phone started chiming non-stop with explicit messages that day, we sensed that we were on to something big. But being at a government task force, presenting our recommendations for new laws to shape child protection across the country for decades to come? We would’ve never thought it possible in nine months.
And yet, there we were, facing that meeting of around 30 people, way ahead of schedule.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who is heading the task force, was the one who set up the opportunity, and we were determined to make it count.
We started our presentation by showing them one of our Predator In My Phone videos. It was the episode where we filmed a 39-year-old father trying to groom a 15-year-old girl to have sex with him in a hotel room. Little did he know, that girl was a R.AGE undercover journalist in disguise.
He was a classic child sex groomer, someone who befriends children and gains their trust in order to sexually exploit them. We wanted to show the task force the dark reality of how men like him operate, and that there are countless others out there, operating virtually unchecked on their smartphones.
RELATED: To catch a child sex predator
Then came the important part – our recommendations to the task force on how we can put an end to this vile practice, which as we now know, is way more widespread than any of us could have imagined.
We proposed new laws against grooming, something which we had been researching for months. We had even drafted our own bill, based on grooming laws in other countries (particularly Commonwealth countries) and advice given to us by various stakeholders, including the police, who have had their hands tied by Malaysia’s wholly inadequate child protection laws.
Essentially, the bill would make the act of sexual grooming illegal. As long as a person has used some form of communication (be it a phone conversation or chat message) to try and lower a child’s inhibitions for sexual abuse, he/she could be charged.
We then explained our plans to make sure the bill gets passed. We were going to launch a new campaign on Oct 14 to lobby Members of Parliament to support the bill.
And that was it. Our presentation was over in 20 nerve-wracking, emotional minutes. The task force asked questions and gave some feedback, but we can’t reveal what was discussed – it was a government task force meeting after all.
The members thanked us for the presentation, and we were ushered out of the room so they could continue their discussions.
But as we were leaving, Azalina told us to hang around, because she was presenting a bill of her own to task force that day – an preliminary draft of a new Child Sexual Crimes Bill – and she wanted us to have a look.
RELATED: Countering child crimes
What we saw in Azalina’s persentation was way beyond what we had hoped for. The Bill covered a wide-range of long-standing issues with child sexual crimes in Malaysia, including sexual grooming!
Again, we’re not allowed to go into specifics, but everyone on the task force we spoke to after that were thrilled with the Bill.
It felt like everything we had worked for over the past nine months was coming together perfectly, but Azalina was quick to remind us that we still have a long way to go.
Putting a bill together is one thing, getting it passed in Parliament is another.
And that’s where we need the help of every single conscientious Malaysian reading this. Come Oct 14, we’ll be launching an online initiative to help Malaysians call out their MPs to support the Child Sexual Crimes Bill, and we’ll need all the support we can get.
Rest assured that the team here at R.AGE is already working hard to reach out to as many MPs as we can, but we still need the Rakyat to reach out to their own MPs to tell them how important this issue is to them.
As Azalina said to us, it’s not the Parliament that should tell people what to do. It’s the other way around – the people should be influencing Parliament.
#MPs Against Predators
THIS Friday, we want you to join us in making new, comprehensive laws on child sexual crimes a reality in Malaysia.
The government task force on sexual crimes has already done its job in drafting the new laws, but now it’s your turn to make sure they get passed in Parliament!
We’re launching a massive campaign to get everyone involved in making sure that happens.
If you want to be a part of it, make sure you follow the Predator In My Phone Facebook page this Friday, Oct 14.
It’ll be an all-day event with personalities like Lisa Surihani going live with us on Facebook to start calling out Members of Parliament – and we’ll show you how you can do the same starting Friday.
It’s time for us to get all our #MPsAgainstPredators.