The Malaysian Child Sex Offenders Registry Is Finally Approved. What Does This Mean?

Will this help lessen sex crimes in Malaysia?

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Nearly 9 years after the idea was introduced, Malaysia has caught up with countries like the United States, South Korea and Australia in creating a registry for child sex offenders

“Now there is a registry for children who have been victims, but what we want add is a lost of perpetrators. The people who have committed crimes against children,” she told reporters here at the Social Institute of Malaysia.

This is the result of amendments to the Child Act 2001 that will be finalised by the Dewan Rakyat in March this year, allowing the registry to come into effect. The idea was first introduced by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development following the rape and murder of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin in 2007.

But first, what is a child sex offenders registry?

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As far back as 20 years ago, sex offender registries and notification systems have helped countries to keep track of potentially dangerous sex offenders in one's neighbourhood. While police officers may keep track of the activities of convicts with a history of sex crime, the public may contact the necessary enforcers for information regarding the whereabouts of these criminals in order to ensure they do not come in close proximity of their children.

"For example, those who operate daycare centres can check to determine if any prospective employee is listed in the registry," Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim said during a media briefing on proposed amendments to the Child Act 2001 at Institut Sosial Nasional in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (Jan 18).

Why did Malaysia fight for a Child Sex Offenders Registry for so many years? Why is it crucial?

While stories of rape shared through social media or through major news channels are freely circulated, many call for such a registry to be set up so that these offenders will be removed from the presence of children.

Fear struck in the hearts of many parents upon hearing news such as of third-year Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin of Imperial College London who produced and intended to distribute 30,000 pornographic images of children online. Check out this story we did on him.

In the U.S., the registry website is open to the public

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Countries like the United States utilises a public sex offender registry website to ease public access to obtaining information, especially employers who are looking to hire potential employees.

Their system is based on conviction offences only, where a sex offender is required to register when they plead guilty or are convicted of a sex offence. The federal government and majority of the states follow this system, but different jurisdictions view sex offences differently.

However, applying the same method here in Malaysia raises concern. It should “not be used to ‘name and shame’" says Sharmila Sekaran, the chairman of Voice of Children.

“However, this registry should not be made public. It should be kept by an established body and should only be disclosed to authorised agencies like the police, forensic units, hospitals, MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), Customs and Immigra­tion,” said Professor Datuk And Halim Sidek, criminologist and legal advisor for Universiti Malaysia Kelantan.

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan also said in 2012, that there is "potential to destroy an offender’s future and the violation of personal liberty is so great” when such records be made public.

Sharing stories revealing the identity of the child on social media during an ongoing investigation can bring a disastrous impact upon the victim, especially if the perpetrator is someone closely connected to the child. Therefore, users of media should be extra cautious before sharing an uncensored story as a provision under Section 15 of the Child Amendment Act 2001 was added to penalise offenders up to a maximum of RM10,000 and 5 years imprisonment.

The registry will be handled by the Welfare Department, with names of convicted felons sourced from Malaysian courts

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If anyone wishes to do a background check, they can call up or write to the ministry according to Dr Waitchalla Suppiah of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry policy division.

"Employers may refer to the list before hiring prospective staff, for instance, those running a nursery. We will know if the person is found to have a clean record without having any offences against children," she said.

It will be set up once the amendments to the Child Act 2001 are passed and finalised by the Dewan Rakyat in March this year

Last May, when it was so close to being passed, the government unexpectedly reversed its decision to pass the proposed Sexual Offenders’ Registration Bill

Image via Yusof Mat Isa

This was accompanied with a controversial statement by Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar who said that the registry will cause an overlap with Malaysia's criminal registry which already includes sex offenders. Therefore, there is no need for a separate registry.

The bill was then shelved, much to the dismay of the many people that poured their energy into making Malaysia safe for women and children.

The amendments to the Child Act 2001, if passed, include a higher maximum fine of RM50,000 (previously RM10,000) or/and undergo 20 years imprisonment (previously 10 years)

A more serious penalty to deter offenders, present or future, are among the few amendments to the act. Those convicted of child neglect, exploitation and abuse will now have to pay a fine as high as RM50,000 (previously RM10,000) or/and undergo 20 years imprisonment (previously 10 years). A national council for children will also be added if the bill is passed through the parliament.

The amendments will see whipping abolished for child offenders, who could also be spared custodial sentences and instead be ordered to do 120 hours of community service within a six-month period.

The amendment included a section dealing with the establishment of a National Council for Children to advise and make recommendations to the government on issues relating to the care, protection, rehabilitation, development and participation of children at the national, regional and international levels.

Some people justify sex crimes in the name of religion. How is that right?

A while ago, PAS held that the reason women get raped is because of their revealing clothing. Victim blaming and slut-shaming is unfortunately still apparent today.

In our imperfect world, children are often victims of violence. This artist visualises new hope for children in a series of paintings: