KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — The Sexual Offences Against Children (Amendment) Bill 2023, aimed at providing a clearer and comprehensive protection to children, was passed in the Dewan Rakyat today.
It was passed with more votes in favour after it was tabled for the second reading by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform), Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, and debated by 10 Members of Parliament.
According to Azalina, the bill, among other things, is to replace the terminology ‘child pornography’ with ‘child sexual abuse material’ in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 (Act 792).
“Although it looks like a replacement of terms only, this replacement has a great impact on the perspective and depiction of the level of seriousness, and the true nature of the crime of exploitation and sexual abuse of children,” she said when winding up the debate on the bill.
In addition, Azalina said that the word pornography does not only refer to sex but also the use of words that exist in technology.
“Nowadays, the word ‘porn’ is not necessarily a dirty word. If we retain the word ‘pornography’, there are times when people can create, for example, in the minds of children, sentences that exist in technology.
“For example, ‘food porn’ is about food, or ‘poverty porn’, hence, it does not necessarily mean that pornography is only sexual. When dealing with children, it is their lack of understanding that sometimes leads them to be misled to understand that this is allowed,” she said.
Earlier, when tabling the bill, Azalina said the new section 15A which provides for the offence related to sexual performances, is intended to deal with the issue of live-streaming sex, which is becoming more prevalent.
Through the drafting of the new section 15A, she said that not only people who watch and participate in sexual performances involving children can be prosecuted, but all parties involved, such as organisers or hosts, middlemen, or any syndicate involved in committing the offence of child sexual performances.
She said that the proposed punishment was imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years and a fine not exceeding RM50,000.
Meanwhile, Dewan Rakyat also passed the Evidence of Child Witness (Amendment) Bill 2023, which aims to improve the protection of child witnesses by raising the age of child witnesses from 16 years to 18 years.
The bill also aims to include provisions related to special hearings for child witnesses to give evidence and prohibit improper questions to child witnesses.
Azalina, when winding up the debate on the bill, however, said that the local community, especially neighbours, need to help the government in curbing and reducing sexual crimes against children in this country.
She said this is because it is not only the law which needs to be changed to fight the crime but also the mentality of the community itself.
“After this, the Legal Division will hold a discussion with the Ministry of National Unity, through the Rukun Tetangga Division, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Education, so that we provide them (the community) with information to assist the government,” she said.