Friday, July 16, 2010

Comment: Malaysia needs another law to hold child traffickers accountable

Malaysia has taken steps to fight child trafficking with its borders. The US has recognized their efforts by recently upgrading their status. Fines and penalties against child trafficking for sex have also doubled in Malaysian law.

Yet a piece in the teen paper Malaysian Today says the country needs to make another step. Writer Pauline Wong tells us why it's important that Malaysia signs on to the Optional Protocols in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Just last month, Malaysia was upgraded to Tier 2 from Tier 3 in the United States Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, showing recognition of the efforts of the government to fight illicit trafficking.

And even more recently, the penalties of human trafficking were increased 10-fold, showing a move in the right direction to deter and curb this crime against humanity.

But despite all that, Malaysia is still one of only three countries in South East Asia who have not signed on to the Optional Protocols (Articles 34 and 35) in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - a shocking fact, for these protocols are crucial in putting precedence on the rights and protection of children victimised by sexual trafficking.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Articles 34 and 35 of the CRC state that the government should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold or trafficked. In this protocol, it is made compulsory to criminalise these offenses. This Optional Protocol strikes hard on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and is to supplement the Convention, and to provide detailed requirements to end sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

What Now?

But Malaysia is not bound by these Optional Protocols. Malaysian children are at great risk of sexual exploitation with little to no consequence to the monsters who are responsible.

"So many Malaysians are appalled at the crime of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, yet no concrete action is undertaken," said Noreen Proseeur, Training and Education Director of P.S. The Children. "The Optional Protocol, once ratified, will be a solid platform to advocate for meaningful child protection with respect to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography."

The Optional Protocol (to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) reinforces and extends the duty of the government to initiate protection measures relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, explained Nooreen.

"It is a lack of political initiative that stops the government from signing to these protocols - they don't deem it important," she said. "The government is only looking into human trafficking, but much more still needs to be done to stop child sex trafficking."

One organisation taking matters into their hands is The Body Shop, who in collaboration with their non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners, are embarking upon their second year of their campaign against child sex trafficking.

Last year, The Body Shop launched their 'Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People' campaign with the aim of creating awareness of this highly secretive and lucrative crime, urging the people to face the facts: Malaysia is a destination, transit and more shockingly, source country for trafficking, with an estimated 90 children getting trafficked every month.

This year, they are pushing even harder for the signing of the Optional Protocols - and the reason is clear.

"Child pornography is an extremely grave concern, now more so than ever. Technology has made it so easy to film a child for pornographic purposes; times have moved on and so has technology," said The Body Shop MD, Datin Mina Cheah-Foong. "You can do so much more that you could not do before. It's as easy as installing a spy camera in a kindergarten, for instance, and the pictures get circulated all over the world among pedophiles!"

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