SO here we are – the recent Parliament session has just come to an end, and despite the strong support from Members of Parliament and the public alike, there was just not enough time to table the proposed Child Sexual Crimes Bill that would have made child sexual grooming illegal.
The Bill would have also expanded the definition of rape, incest, and sexual assault, and introduced new laws to criminalise child pornography – all issues which child protection NGOs and advocates have been calling out for.
Sadly, the Bill had to jostle for attention during a very eventful Parliament session, and it just couldn’t be tabled in time.
But there has been some good news since the session ended.
The Bill did manage to be presented to the Cabinet last Friday, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman (who heads the government’s child sexual crimes task force) said it was approved unanimously, which is a major step forward.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers will now draft the final Bill, which will then be tabled in Parliament for MPs to vote on, hopefully by the next Parliament session early next year.
“In the meantime, we’re planning more discussions and ongoing engagements with relevant stakeholders including child protection NGOs to fine tune the much-awaited Child Sexual Crimes Act before it comes into effect,” said Azalina.
“The proposed Act will give paramount consideration on the evidence of children and the establishment of a special court to deal with child sexual offenders.”
R.AGE’s #MPsAgainstPredators campaign, which has been pushing to criminalise child sexual grooming, is also in its next phase.
It started out by calling members of the public to lobby their MPs on the issue, but in the coming months, it will be focusing on educating the public about sexual grooming through a series of talks in schools, colleges and universities.
While the campaign has successfully sparked fresh conversation in Parliament about addressing child sexual crimes, it is equally important to encourage conversations to take place at home between parents and children.
Campaign ambassador Lisa Surihani, who has been personally lobbying politicians to support the cause, will be joining R.AGE in a Facebook live stream this Friday to update everyone on what’s going to happen next with the campaign, and how members of the public can continue to do their part.
Lisa, who is also keen to join R.AGE in bringing awareness to schools, said she will do as much as she can to highlight this cause, even if it means her going to Parliament to speak to the MPs personally.
So far, she has already spoken to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim in person, and she has called several others like Rembau MP and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Batang Sadong MP Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, and Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Johari.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister and Bentong MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has become the latest MP to publicly pledge his support for the #MPsAgainstPredators campaign.
He spoke to the R.AGE team briefly during The Star’s Golden Hearts Awards ceremony, and later posted a photo of him holding the campaign’s logo on social media, which various MPs have already done to help raise awareness.
Around 150 MPs will have to support the Bill in Parliament in order for the law to be passed, and Liow said he hoped all his fellow MPs would be on board with it.
“Child sexual protection is crucial,” he said.
“Because children need protection, guidance and help from adults, and the law should assist that.
“All MPs not yet attuned to this issue should definitely be made aware, especially when it comes to sexual grooming.”
Many MPs had brought up child sexual grooming and child sexual crimes in general throughout the six-week Parliament session, in an effort to help drum up support for new laws.
Zairil Johari touched on the issue of child pornography, while Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto asked what the government was doing legislatively to tackle the issue of online sexual grooming.
Bukit Katil MP Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin even brought up the R.AGE campaign specifically, lauding the team’s efforts to help make a difference.
On social media, even more MPs have been expressing their support, but even more encouraging is the fact that they have come from both sides of the political divide.
Some of the earliest to share social media posts supporting the campaign include Khairy, Defence Minister and MP for Sembrong Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Permatang Pauh MP and opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
An interactive map has been designed on the #MPsAgainstPredators website (predator.my) to show Malaysians how many MPs have already pledged their support, and how many more are needed for the laws to be passed.
Each time the MPs pledges their support, their constituency on the map turns from grey to green. Concerned members of the public can also find out who the MPs of the “grey constituencies” are, and send them social media messages lobbying for their support.
So far, nearly 40 constituencies have turned green, but over 100 are still needed. The Parliament session might have ended, but the campaign must go on.
Join R.AGE in a Facebook live stream video at 4pm, Dec 2 with Lisa Surihani, where we’ll be sharing about the campaign highlights. Lisa will be sharing her experience working on Predator In My Phone in the past year, and what’s upcoming for the campaign.