Sexual crime is often viewed as a women’s issue. But the reality is that it affects everyone, men, women and children, directly or indirectly. Prema Devaraj urges all of us to become advocates for child protection.
Daily we read of incidences of sexual violence against women and children in the papers. Will it never end? Women’s groups and child rights advocates have for years, raged against the different forms of sexual violence (rape, incest, molestation, sodomy, sexual harassment, etc) and worked towards the protection of women and children through various avenues i.e. education, legislation, support networks and so on. They continue to do so.
Public outrage is expressed each time a case of sexual assault is sensationalised by the media but after a while, the outrage dies down. What about efforts by government agencies with regards to child protection and actions taken in the best interests of the child, given that Malaysia is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? Clearly, the problem of sexual crimes against children is something we have a hard time handling. Is enough being done?
In October 2010, a group of concerned individuals and non-governmental organisations in Penang came together after yet another appalling case of sexual assault against a child was reported in the papers. This group formed a coalition called Kempen Rakyat Pulau Pinang: Stop Sexual Crimes Against Children. Kempen Rakyat Pulau Pinang or KRPP planned a year-long campaign in Penang with a series of objectives including raising public awareness of sexual crimes against children and related issues as it was felt that many people were not aware of the seriousness of the situation in terms of numbers affected or the impact of such crimes on children or the need to report such incidences or even where to go to for help. KRPP aims to have a series of talks and workshops and road shows to reach out to the community.
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While a year long campaign by itself may not result in reducing sexual crimes against children in any significant manner, it could see:
- more people being aware of the need for personal safety programmes for our children, better reporting procedures, professionally run shelters for children,
- support networks for children and their families,
- more trained staff (police investigators, welfare officers, hospital personnel, child therapists etc) and resources for child protection,
- more trained public prosecutors to improve prosecution of offenders, as well as,
- the rehabilitation of offenders.
With increased public awareness, there would be better monitoring of children and more support of victims and their families. There would also be an understanding of the need for good social policies to be in place with an accompanying call for effective and efficient implementation. The public would soon become aware of the need for a decent budget to back these social policies. It is felt by many in this line of work that this is currently not the case. Time and again the lack of resources or personnel or expertise is lamented. It is clear that the national budget needs better prioritising. Instead of spending ridiculous amounts on purchasing military vessels to deal with potential (or should one say imaginary) external assaults on the country, the government would do well to acknowledge that women and children are being assaulted from within the country, and generally by our own. With an increased understanding of the issues surrounding child protection, taxpayers can begin to insist that their money is better allocated!
A campaign is only as effective as the people in it. KRPP calls on Penangites, men women and children, to come forward and participate in KRPP activities. One of the upcoming activities is a Walk To Stop Sexual Crimes at Queensbay Mall on 19 March 2010 in conjunction with International Women’s Day. See www.wccpenang.org for more information.
Apart from this, people can register as supporters of the campaign (as individuals, NGOs or companies) and/or volunteer to help in KRPP activities, which includes:
- the distributing awareness-raising material,
- taking part in training sessions,
- organising talks in the community,
- participating in road shows in public places,
- organising workshops children on personal safety and
- of course raising funds for KRPP to take the message to the community.
More information on KRPP can be obtained by writing to [email protected]
Sexual crime is often viewed as a women’s issue. But the reality is that it affects everyone, men, women and children, directly or indirectly. Stopping sexual crimes is no easy task and requires among other things, awareness, commitment and a collective effort. Become an advocate for child protection. Help stop sexual crimes against children.
Prema Devaraj is an Aliran executive committee member