Keeping our children safe from sexual abuse

On Aug 20, a baby was raped. On Nov 9, a second baby was said to have been sexually assaulted. Both babies were only 11 months old.

The second rape, which is said to have resulted in the baby’s death, caused a flurry of excitement on social media, the odd statement from a lawyer demanding stiffer laws, and the usual response from the government that parents need to be more vigilant and that work is underway to formulate a “working with children” check.

All well and good, but where are the howls of outrage from civil society groups, mothers’ groups, women’s groups, parents’ associations, activists and child rights organisations? Where are their demands for stiffer penalties for errant childminders, or the regulation of such individuals?

Are Malaysians simply becoming more depraved? Perhaps attitudes have changed, and people are now more inclined to report these incidents instead of remaining silent due to shame or the fear of social stigma. Maybe they want the perpetrators to face justice as well. Hospitals are also required by law to contact the police when they suspect a baby has been abused.

But the scary thing is what we normally hear about the severity of sexual crimes against children only because the violence used has resulted in serious injury or death. What about the cases that go unreported or do not involve serious injury?

In the latest tragedy, the babysitter assigned care of the child to her husband. He is believed to have abused the baby. He also tested positive for drugs.

How difficult would it be to set up a childminding service? With the number of reports on the sexual abuse of children, perhaps the government should consider regulating childminders as well.

Those who look after children under eight years of age should be registered and inspected by the relevant government ministries or bodies. Regular checks need to be made of the home and the childminder to ensure that proper care is provided, and that the premises are safe, welcoming and child-friendly.

In countries like Britain, any adult living in the same house as the childminder must also have his or her background checked by the police.

Regulation must be followed by strict enforcement. If rules are broken, the full force of the law should await errant childminders. Only by conducting the most stringent regulation can we ensure the safety of our children.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.