Joining forces to prevent child exploitation
PETALING JAYA: The Star is working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and various child safety stakeholders to ensure new laws are put in place to protect children from sexual exploitation.
The Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) is one of those that is supporting the campaign.
“Our laws aren’t good enough. It’s part of my agenda to push for anti-grooming laws,” said D11 principal assistant director ACP Ong Chin Lan.
“Grooming”, the process of gaining a child’s trust for future sexual exploitation, has been criminalised in countries like Singapore, Australia, Canada and Britain.
The Star’s R.AGE video documentary team and Unicef will bring together the child advocates and various stakeholders – including D11 and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development – for a townhall meeting on June 25 to discuss an action plan.
International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) Asia Pacific policy director Bindu Sharma said governments and NGOs around the world are “playing catch up” now, as offenders are turning to new technology to target their victims.
“The scale of the issue far exceeds the capacity of law enforcement to respond adequately and investigate these crimes,” said Bindu.
The police have received over 400 reports of Internet-related rape cases since 2010, of which 339 involved minors.
The conviction rate for perpetrators of sexual crimes involving children was at 5% in 2013, according to a parliament report.
“Reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Ong.
“Very few rape victims will come forth to make a report because they don’t know where to seek help.”
While Ong encouraged victims to report these crimes, she also acknowledged that the reporting system has its flaws.
“Some victims may find the police station a complex system, or that some male police officers do not understand the trauma they have experienced,” she said.
Goh Siu Lin, president of the Association of Women Lawyers, said: “The judiciary and prosecutors should be sensitive to child abuse cases. We need to train frontliners in getting the evidence out of the child to ensure a prima facie case.”
It was recently announced that a Child Cyber Sexual Crime investigation unit was set up within D11, but Ong said the unit needs to be “beefed up”.
“There are more cases coming. More will be uncovered,” she said.