A mathematics teacher’s appeal for a lighter sentence for two counts of molesting an 11-year-old student in 2016 was granted in Putrajaya’s High Court yesterday, despite initially facing heavier charges of inciting a child into a gross act of indecency.
Upon the teacher’s appeal, the High Court substituted the charges to outraging modesty, which carries a much lighter jail term of up to 10 years or a fine or whipping. The teacher, known as Kamarul Azamin Mohamed, was fined RM10,000 for each count of molestation, totalling RM20,000. According to reports, factors such as the crime being the perpetrator’s first offence and the effects heavier sentencing would have on his career played a role in the decision.
The punishment is severely inadequate and harmful towards child rights in Malaysia. Malaysia has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and must protect the best interest of the child. The decision to sentence the perpetrator with a fine and no jail time not only undermines this principle, and calls into question the effect such a decision will have on public safety.
The sentence received additionally disregards the trauma and detrimental impact the multiple counts of sexual abuse by a trusted figure would have had on the child. Judicial institutions, which ensure justice through upholding the law, must recognise that child sexual abuse crimes leverage on trust and differential power dynamics. Abusers, such as the teacher in this case, clearly exploited such dynamics and the child’s position of vulnerability for sexual gratification.
The Court has a duty to apply the relevant laws criminalising such abuses of power, such as those in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act, to the fullest extent to not only provide justice for survivors but to send the message that child sexual abuse is a serious crime that will be punished accordingly.
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Court rulings set the standard for how future cases similar in nature will be handled and, as such, child sexual abuse should not be taken lightly. A RM20,000 fine sends a message that child sexual abuse is permissible so long as one can afford it. This is concerning as children are vulnerable members of our society and institutions must ensure their rights and safety are protected.
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) urges for this decision to be reviewed, especially in light of the international commitments Malaysia has assumed in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We additionally call on the Ministry of Education to ensure appropriate action is taken against the teacher, such as termination with immediate effect to preserve safe school environments.
We must continue to hold all Malaysian institutions accountable and strive for higher standards to ensure the safety of children in Malaysia is always prioritised. – WAO