Expert raises concern over ignorance about paedophilia

Mohd Taufik Mohammad.

GEORGE TOWN: Most Malaysian parents lack knowledge about paedophilia, according to an academic who has done research on juvenile issues.

“Their awareness of the subject is quite low,” said Mohd Taufik Mohammad of Universiti Sains Malaysia.

He told FMT he found this out in a survey he had conducted among parents and the general public.

He said this was a cause for concern because he believed parents should be the immediate protectors of children and must therefore be “fully alert to the predatory behaviour of paedophiles and teach their children to not speak to strangers”.

Taufik conducted his study after the wide publicity given to the case of Richard Huckle.

Huckle, a British paedophile who preyed on Malaysian children while posing as a photographer, teacher and devout Christian between 2006 and 2014, was convicted on 71 counts of sexual assault at the Old Bailey in London in June 2016. The court handed him 22 life sentences.

Human rights group Tenaganita recently told FMT that the demand for child sex was growing in Malaysia.

It quoted an activist as saying that young boys and girls from impoverished families were being groomed for sex after being tricked with job offers paying as much as RM1,000 a month.

Tenaganita also spoke of foreigners being brought in for child sex services.

Taufik acknowledged that Malaysian laws against child sex were “very up to date” but he said it appeared that protection for foreigners was inadequate.

He said some foreign nationals living in Malaysia would innocently give up their children to parties claiming to have jobs for them.

“These parents are willing to let others care for their children because they are poor,” he said.

“The victims, regardless of their nationalities, need to be protected and rehabilitated. After all, we have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child under Unicef.”

He said the sex education of children was essential in keeping them safe from predators. He criticised sex education in Malaysia as “superficial at best”, saying the curriculum avoided topics like safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases.

Former Suhakam commissioner James Nagayam said paedophiles would usually enter Malaysia as volunteers or charity workers.

“This is what makes them hard to detect,” he told FMT.

He also said poor children were easy targets for paedophiles, as was evident in the Huckle case.