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Paedophilia sexual abuse case exposes legal loopholes

Reporter: Rian Maelzer 丨 CCTV.com

07-30-2016 17:32 BJT

It’s a case that has exposed glaring weaknesses in Malaysia’s child protection laws, as well as highlighting public perception towards child sexual abuse. 28-year-old British national Richard Huckle was arrested after returning from Malaysia. He was sentenced to life in prison for 71 counts of sexual abuse, involving 23 children, all but one of them Malaysian.

Investigators believe the true number of victims is closer to 200. Now Malaysia is trying to learn from the case of the man described as Britain’s worst-ever paedophile.

Richard Huckle preyed on impoverished ethnic Indian children, visiting churches, posing as a teacher and photographer. The case has exposed a lack of awareness in Malaysia when it comes to child sexual abuse. “PS the Children” has been working in the communities where the abuse took place.

“The attitude is much of denial. And most of the cases, the support system or the primary caregivers, they blame the child for what has happened. They think it's not my child, it could be another child in the community,” said Vijaya Baskar, Protect and Save the Children.

The Ministry of Women and Families has been putting on road shows to improve understanding of the issue.

“One of the things is to make more awareness, because awareness is very important because we thought this is something you get from other countries, but here it is in the midst of our society,” said Rohaini Abdul Karim, Malaysian Minister of Women and Family Development.

The Huckle case has also exposed deep shortcomings in Malaysia’s legal protection for children. Activists say that the definition of rape is too narrow, and that there is dire need for laws to combat grooming or enticing children, including over the internet.

“I did tell my officers that whatever laws that are obsolete, it's not updated, never mind, bring it up, let’s do as much amendment and if the amendment is so major, even can come up with a new act. Because this became like a wake up call,” Rohaini Abdul Karim said.

The Malaysian government is poised to bring in amendments to its child protection act, to stiffen sentences and create a registry of sex offenders. But it’s clear that a lot more needs to be done to catch up with technology and face up the gravity of the threat of the sexual exploitation of children.

“Instead of just showing what's the gaps, it's better to show how to strengthen the system, and we provide all technical support to the various ministry, women and families, the police, the other social welfare departments so we can jointly strengthen the system,” said Vijaya Baskar.

Making sure that the government, NGOs, parents and society as a whole work together to make sure Malaysia’s children are kept safe from the likes of Richard Huckle.

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