KUALA LUMPUR: The Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 was passed in the Dewan Rakyat after two days of intense debate.
The bill was passed through a voice vote.
Among the clauses that have been added is the provision of rehabilitative counselling for offenders in prison.
Opposition lawmakers had tried and failed to introduce several amendments to the bill, including one to establish that a person who had unknowingly received child pornography could not be subjected to charges of possession.
DAP lawmaker Teo Nie Ching had submitted a proposal to make child marriage an offence, with exceptions for cases of “childhood sweethearts”.
The Kulai MP had pointed out that Muslim-majority countries such as Algeria, Egypt and Morocco held 18 to be the minimum marriageable age.
Urging bipartisan support for the ban, Teo said the issue of consent was irrelevant when it came to children.
“A paedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children. A paedophile is a criminal. But those who marry underage girls are not?”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said had nixed the proposal in a written reply.
“Yes, touching a child sexually is illegal but when they are married, touching is legal and is not a crime under this bill.”