CHILD abuse is a comprehensive term encompassing various dimensions. It extends beyond physical harm or injury to a child, including mental and sexual mistreatment.
Addressing child abuse is imperative on a global scale, with approximately 40 million children aged 0 to 14 worldwide requiring protection.
Child abuse is a global phenomenon, and Malaysia is not exempt from this issue. The rising number of child abuse reports in Malaysia may pose a serious obstacle to the country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development objectives.
According to data compiled by the Health Ministry in 2022, child abuse includes mistreatment of children in the physical and emotional domain, as well as sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of child abuse is in line with Malaysian definitions, which include mental, emotional, sexual, and neglectful abuse.
However, the confirmed and reported cases represent only a fraction of the actual occurrences, with many likely going unreported.
From 2020 to 2022, the Social Welfare Department (JKM) documented 18,750 cases of child abuse, including instances of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and parental absence, among other factors.
In this timeframe, Selangor documented the highest incidence of abuse cases, totalling 4,256, as reported by Rantau Panjang MP Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.
According to the WHO 2017 report, the impact of abuse on children’s health can range from reduced self-esteem to serious outcomes such as brain injuries, permanent disability, and, in extreme situations, fatality.
The National Institute of Justice asserts that mistreated children are more likely to engage in criminal activities in the future, thereby impacting the nation’s financial resources due to the costs associated with crime prevention and intervention.
In essence, children constitute the future of any society, emphasising the paramount importance of prioritising their protection and support to prevent unnecessary suffering and facilitate the development of content, healthy, and productive adults.
What can be done to prevent child abuse
The issue of child abuse requires careful attention and immediate action. It is crucial for professionals, the government, communities, NGOs, and individuals in society to collectively take significant measures to alleviate and eliminate this problem.
Presented below are some recommendations that can be implemented to address the issue of child abuse in Malaysia.
First, a nation’s resources must be allocated equally among its people. In order to preserve equality among members of various communities, this is crucial. Child abuse could be handled to some extent when there is no financial crisis.
Second, launch national campaigns to raise public awareness of child abuse, its warning signs, and its consequences. Offer educational programmes in schools, communities, and through the media to educate children, parents, teachers, and the general public about children’s rights and protection.
Third, increase the resources and funding available to child welfare organisations. Educate law enforcement, social workers, and medical professionals on how to identify and respond to cases of child abuse.
Fourth, provide parenting education programmes to equip parents with the skills and knowledge necessary to raise their children in a safe and nurturing environment. Offer crisis intervention services and additional resources to underprivileged families.
Fifth, include instruction on child safety in school curricula. Educators and other school personnel should receive training on how to spot abuse symptoms and create a safe space where kids can talk about their worries.
Sixth, encourage community involvement and networks of family support. Encourage our neighbours and fellow community members to report any suspected child abuse and to keep an eye out for the welfare of the children.
Finally, provide easy access to mental health support services and counselling for both perpetrators and victims of child abuse. Rehab programmes can be used to address the root causes of abusive behaviour.
In essence, children constitute a fundamental pillar for the economic and social advancement of any nation.
They play a pivotal role in shaping the future harmony and peace of the country, eventually assuming leadership roles from the older generation. Subjecting them to harassment and significant traumas during their formative years can disrupt societal progress.
Thus, it is essential to guarantee their unhindered growth, devoid of mistreatment, in order to guarantee the stability of the economy, society, and political. Taking a proactive stance against child abuse allows us to collaboratively strive for a society where every child experiences safety, value, and protection.
Through raising awareness, encouraging education, and engaging the community, we enable people to break the cycle of abuse, support victims, and advocate for laws that put the welfare of the youngest and most vulnerable members first.
This makes it abundantly clear how crucial it is to protect kids from abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation. – Jan 25, 2024
Dr Rulia Akhtar is a Research Fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies (UAC), Universiti Malaya.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Faculty of Medicine/The University of Queensland