“Stop silencing survivors of child abuse,” group berates minister

THE Joint Action Group (JAG) for Gender Equality has condemned Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Idris Ahmad for trying to silence a teenage actress who spoke up about the abuse she had endured at the hands of her father when younger.

Earlier this week the PAS vice-president said the 15-year-old should not have gone public with her allegations, adding that she should have lodged a police report to avoid shaming her family or damaging her father’s reputation.

“As a minister, his response is unacceptable and is a violation of our Child Act 2001 and the well-supported Sexual Offences against Children Act (SOACA) 2017 to protect children,” JAG said.

It also added that the minister’s response was an “upsetting reflection” of the normalisation of the violence women and girls experience at home.

“Such statements shame survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) into silence, leaving many to feel that they are alone in facing the issue,” the group pointed out.

“These remarks from someone in a position of power and trust are extremely discouraging for all survivors of SGBV. It could also contribute to the under-reporting of such cases as victims fear speaking out over possible retaliation and being wrongly judged.

“Advising the survivor and family members to not speak out about abuse to protect abusers is a blatant contradiction of the core values of Malaysian laws and government standard operating procedures (SOPs) meant to eradicate sexual violence against children perpetrated by adults, including family members.”

The group further noted that the Prime Minister’s Department – the office within which the Minister operates – was a key driver in ensuring that provisions in the SOACA to protect children were implemented, including by issuing a special guideline for handling cases involving sexual offences against children.

“As an MP and minister, it would be remiss to not clarify the PM’s Department stance on children’s rights to be safe from sexual harm,” it added.

Pic credit: New Straits Times

Citing data from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) JAG revealed that most child sexual abuse cases involve perpetrators the victim knows – most often their biological or stepfathers, adding that a staggering 42% increase in child sexual abuse cases was recorded between 2020 and 2021.

“The power dynamics of being harmed by a trusted individual, especially a family member, makes speaking out daunting. Hence, the routine silencing and shaming of victims only serves to further exacerbate the issue,” it said.

“JAG demands that the government definitively stands against child sexual abuse and we hope that the Prime Minister’s Department, PDRM and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry take a clear stance as well as continue to oversee the investigation into the case.

“In addressing this issue, the Government should know that every survivor and every Malaysian voter will take note of how it chooses to protect its children.”

On Monday (Sept 5), the 15-year-old actress lodged a police report over claims that she had been sexually harassed by her father.

The actress who recently appeared as a guest on a YouTube programme to share her life story alleged that she and her mother would be beaten if they asked her father to teach them to recite the Quran.

She also claimed that her father molested her when she was a child, in addition to treating her mother badly.

The suspect has been arrested over allegations of sexually harassing his daughter, with Subang Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Wan Azlan Wan Mamat saying the 43-year-old man was arrested at his home in Kedah at about 2.25pm on Tuesday (Sept 6).

The suspect, who has been remanded until next Monday (Sept 12) for further investigation, had also lodged a police report at the Bandar Baharu police station in Kedah following the revelation by his daughter. – Sept 9, 2022


Main pic credit: UNICEF

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