Recently, the nation was horrified over the incident of a three-year-old child who fell from an escalator at Kompleks Bukit Jambul in George Town, Penang.
It was learnt the father, who was carrying the child on his shoulder, suddenly titled his head, causing the child to fall 3m to the lower floor.
Time after we read horrible reports about child neglect and wonder how can this happen in a country equipped with many laws protecting child welfare and interests.
Malaysia has enacted the comprehensive Child Act 2001 to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRG), which protects the welfare of children below the age of 18.
The Act repealed the Juvenile Courts Act 1947, the Women and Girls Protection Act 1973 and the Child Protection Act 1991.
It also provides a sections dealing specifically with the illtreatment, neglect, abandonment or exposure of children.
According to Section 31, any person who, being a person having the care of a child (a) abuses, neglects, abandons or exposes the child in a manner likely to cause him physical or emotional injury or causes or permits him to be so abused, neglected, abandoned or exposed or (b) sexually abuses the child or causes or permits him to be so abused, commits and offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or jail term not exceeding ten years or to both.
In July, the government gazetted the Child Act (Amendment) 2015, which provides heavier penalties – fine increased to RM50,000 and jail term up to 20 years. All parents and guardians can no longer take the safety and welfare of children lightly.
Besides strengthening the law, the relevant Ministry and non-governmental bodies must work together to increase the level of awareness and educate parents and guardians about their responsibilities and duties to protect children from any harm or danger.
Muzaffar Syah Mallow, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia