PETALING JAYA: Crackdowns on the child sex trade in Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines mean foreign paedophiles are increasingly targeting Malaysia for their perverted adventures.
Human rights group Tenaganita co-director Aegile Fernandez has revealed that the demand for sex with kids is growing in the country.
“Our neighbouring countries have become more aware of their own child prostitution problems and the authorities are vigorously fighting back against paedophiles and child-sex traffickers.
“This means that Malaysia is increasingly the destination of choice for men seeking underage sex,” she told FMT.
But most Malaysians remain blissfully unaware of this.
“Since demand is surging, syndicates are constantly hunting for children in rural or poor urban areas,” Fernandez said. “They particularly target boys from broken homes where they are being looked after by relatives or neighbours.
“They send plausible women to the boys’ homes to win the trust of parents or guardians. These ‘nice aunties’ tell them that their boys will be given jobs earning up to RM1,000 a month.
“If someone can look after the children, it is a relief,” she said.
The parents are told by the women that the boys will work in plantations or become fishermen.
The adults know that their sons will not earn much if they continue their education, so they prefer them to learn a skill and bring in some money.
They are unaware that their boys are on their way into the child-sex trade.
Once in the clutches of syndicates, the children are put to work on the streets, either begging or touting for sex.
“We need to realise there is a great demand for children in the sex trade. Refugees are especially vulnerable.”
Fernandez described how a 16-year-old Bangladeshi boy was brought into the country, ostensibly to work, but was forced into homosexual prostitution.
“He had to have sex with multiple men. After four years, he was of no more use to the syndicate so they extracted one of his kidneys and dumped him in the gutter. We took him into our shelter but he was mentally gone.
“Malaysians are not asking themselves questions when they see a young boy or girl with an older, perhaps foreign man. Instead of reporting it, they prefer to just pass by,” said Fernandez.
“That makes our cities happy places for traffickers, pimps and paedophiles.”
Areas of Kuala Lumpur where predators prowl are Bukit Bintang, Brickfields, Central Market and Ampang.
Tenaganita learned from locals in those areas that young boys and girls are picked up in cars late in the evening and dropped back off in the morning.
Many of the children are given drugs to keep them compliant, and become hooked.
Some are groomed for cyber-sex.
“We spoke to a girl aged about nine. She told us she doesn’t have to do anything but pose for pictures with her panties on or off.
“It was so sad to hear her talk as she had no idea what was going on,” Fernandez said. “All she knew was she was given good food.”
When Tenaganita asked the girl about her parents, she replied that they had given her to an “uncle” who promised he would take care of her. Sometimes he told her to pose in return for food.
Fernandez said the Malaysian public could be “quite innocent”, assuming that everything is fine and above-board, and that the children they see on the street are being looked after by someone.
Tenaganita carried out a study around Chow Kit, a thriving red light area in Kuala Lumpur. Men were asked why they were looking for sex with minors.
Of the men who answered, many said they were no longer satisfied with their wives and were on the lookout for someone younger.
Fernandez appealed to Malaysians to report any suspicious incidents using the “Be My Protector” app, developed locally to combat human and sex trafficking in the country.
Anyone can use the app to report suspicious incidents, anonymously if they prefer. All reports will be followed up by qualified Tenaganita case workers.
In just nine months, the app has seen over 300 reports of sexual exploitation, forced labour and people smuggling.