KUALA LUMPUR: The government says a law to fight sex crimes against children passed under the previous administration has made prosecution easier, but investigating such crimes are still fraught with problems.
Hanipa Maidin, the deputy minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department, said weaknesses in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 should be addressed.
“I have already asked for a comprehensive study to be carried out,” he told Dewan Rakyat in response to a question by Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang), who asked if existing laws on sexual crimes against children should be amended.
Hanipa said one problem was when complainants retract their reports, or fail to be present in court.
He also said there was a notion that child witnesses could not differentiate between fantasy and reality.
The legislation was drawn up to protect those under 18 years of age from sexual abuse. It was passed in Parliament in April last year.
Under the law, it is an an offence for an adult to utter words or sounds of a sexual nature, or make gestures or exhibit any part or their body with the intention that they would be seen by a child.
Hanipa today said the first special court to hear cases of sexual crimes against minors began operations on June 23 last year in Putrajaya. He said the court also covers Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.
He said rooms to hold child witnesses during trials were also completed at courts in Seremban, Melaka, Penang, Kuantan, Ipoh, Kuala Terengganu, Klang, Johor Bahru and Alor Star.
Meanwhile, former law minister Azalina Othman Said, who spearheaded efforts to pass the law to protect children from sexual predators, asked whether the recent case involving a 11-month-old infant who died after allegedly being raped, can be heard in the special court.
Hanipa said at this juncture, it was classified as murder.
“Even though it involves a victim who is a child, but this is a murder. It should be heard in the normal courts,” he said.