KUALA LUMPUR: The Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 has been passed by the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
The bill which, among others, regards children as competent witnesses in sexual crime cases was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said last week.
It was passed after the third reading before Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Ismail Mohamed Said at about 6.15pm.
The bill was debated by both government and opposition members of parliament on various technical issues such as age, definition of victim, term of child pornography, witness statement and the implementation powers of the bill.
The bill, aimed at protecting children from sexual crimes, would be applicable to children under 18 years in line with the Child Act 2001.
When winding up the debate, Azalina said the bill would raise the status of children to testify even though existing laws state otherwise.
However, she said the court would still have the power to decide if the children could testify.
“There is no definition on the prudent age of children but the court can decide on the tender years to be below 13. As such, the prudent age of children is between 14 to 18 and they could give sworn statements,” she said.
In reply to P Kasthuriraani (DAP-Batu Kawan) who wanted to know the cases involving stateless children and refugees, Azalina said the same procedures and laws would apply to all children if the crime was committed in Malaysia.
“To ascertain the age of children, the prosecution will call on the Royal Malaysian Police to have the children to undergo certain tests and if they were verified as children, the existing laws would apply,” she said.
According to the bill, a person found making, being in possession and distributing child pornography could be jailed for a term not exceeding 30 years and receive not less than six strokes of the rotan upon conviction.
The bill also mentioned individuals found guilty of committing physical sexual acts on children could be jailed not more than 20 years and are also liable to the punishment of whipping.
This involves touching a part of a child’s body, making a child touch any part of another person’s body, or making the child touch his or her own body without intercourse. For non-physical sexual grooming, such as carrying out sexual activities in front of children, the individual could be jailed for a term not more than 10 years or fined not more than RM20,000, or both, if convicted.
The bill also provides for any person who withhold information on child sexual offences to be fined not more than RM5,000. — Bernama