PETALING JAYA: The public has lost respect for child protection laws because of the lack of action against abusive parents or guardians, according to Suhakam’s children’s commissioner, Farah Nini Dusuki.
She said the Child Act 2001 requires doctors, family members and childcare providers to report suspected child abuse cases.
Failing to do so can result in a fine of up to RM5,000 and two years in prison.
“There is no publicity about this law, and the implications of not complying. As a result, a law that was meant to be a deterrent turned out to be ineffective,” she told FMT.
Parents or guardians who wilfully neglect a child can be punished, but there is a lack of action taken against them, so the public does not respect the law, said Farah, who was appointed children’s commissioner of Suhakam, the human rights commission, in March.
She called for more awareness programmes to be carried out – “but the public just needs to be taught to respect children” she said.
Farah’s comments came in response to a recent government report that 2,959 cases of child abuse had been reported up to May, compared to 1,055 child cases for the same period last year.
Former Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam said he believed the figures were centred on people’s housing projects (PPR), where the welfare department has its protection service centres.
He said a high number of child abuse cases were recorded in PPRs due to the loss of job, problems of mental health and depression, and from domestic violence.
He said the figures began to rise during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many PPR residents are not aware of the existence of the Child Act or about the welfare department’s protection centres, rendering the efforts to curb child abuse ineffective.
He urged the government to empower the community to form its own community centre where complaints could be filed, including those on suspected child abuse.