KUALA LUMPUR: Lawmakers spent more than nine hours in gruelling debates over the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017.

The debate on the Bill, which was at the committee stage last night, will continue today.

The Bill was scrutinised by MPs who raised several questions on the working of the proposed law.

Their concerns included questions on why child marriages were not addressed as a sexual offence against children, how to deal with victims during testimonies, how authorities can deal with the “dark web” and underground global paedophile networks, and also child pornography.

Some lawmakers argued that Section 2 – which states the Act is to be used for children below the age of 18 – was confusing and could allow perpetrators above the age of 18 to escape prosecution.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said pointed out the Sexual Offences against Children Bill 2017 was drafted to protect victims from all form of sexual acts without taking into consideration their age.

She argued the Bill was specifically targeted to protect victims and this was clear from its title.

“This is for the victims, not the perpetrator. The perpetrator can be of any age,” she said, adding the age definition of a child was in line with the Child Act (Amendment) 2016.

On child marriages, Azalina said there are specific laws in Syariah and civil laws which allowed children below 16 to marry.

The current civil laws allows a person below 16 to marry with permission from the Chief Minister or Mentri Besar, while Muslims below the same age can marry with the consent of Syariah Courts.

She pointed out the Bill also allowed the Government to prosecute Malaysians who travelled abroad to commit sexual crimes against children.

This showed the government’s seriousness, she said, to nab sexual predators regardless of where the crime is committed.

Earlier Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abd Karim said the new laws were needed to punish those who preyed on children.

Due to the efforts of The Star in successfully lobbying 115 MPs to pledge their support for new laws against child sexual crimes, the Bill is widely expected to pass (112 votes are needed to pass the Bill).

The lobbying campaign came after R.AGE’s Predator In My Phone undercover investigations exposed rampant child sexual crimes in the country.

The R.AGE online broadcast, starting at 9:30am on fb.com/ragepmp, will feature discussions with legal experts, child rights advocates, and the MPs themselves, live from Parliament.
From The Star Online