Sunday, February 14, 2016

Malaysia No. 130 in global ranking for children’s access to justice

Malaysia ranks 130th among 197 countries polled in terms of access to justice for children, says the Child Rights International Network (CRIN) in a recent release. According to the global children' rights advocacy network, its first global ranking is a measure of how children can use the courts to defend their rights. Topping the list are Belgium, Portugal and Spain, with Kenya the only country outside Europe to make the top 10. Neighbours Singapore and Indonesia did marginally better, taking the 120th and 122nd spot respectively. Malaysia tied with Antigua and Barbuda as well as Vanuatu. The full ranking can be viewed here. The ranks are based on four categories: the legal status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the legal status of the child and remedies and practicalities. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child chairman Benyam Dawit Mezmur said the rankings were not just to show who was doing well and who wasn't but to highlight the ability to stir states to action and prompt them to improve and claim a higher spot. "The committee welcomes this research and already envisages its concrete contribution to its various engagements with states." CRIN director Veronica Yates said access to justice was about challenging the perception of children as just victims or somehow less worthy of justice than adults. "It is about recognising that children, like adults, have human rights and that when these rights are infringed they should be able to trust and use the legal system to get justice." CRIN, in its country report on Malaysia said while the country has acceded to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it did not have the force of law and could not be directly enforced by the courts. "Malaysia acceded to the CRC in 1995 with a number of reservations to address discrepancies between provisions of the CRC and national laws, including Shariah laws. "In order for an international treaty to have the force of law in Malaysia, it must be explicitly incorporated through legislation. "The CRC has not been so incorporated," it said with regard to Malaysia. It also noted that Malaysia has a dual legal system, which means that decisions can be made under either civil law or Shariah law. "The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern that this could give rise to inconsistent treatment of children. "Shariah law applies to Muslims, while civil law applies to non-Muslims, and the two legal systems could result in uncertainty among families of mixed religious background and potentially unequal levels of protection for children of different backgrounds in the courts." Malaysia has also acceded to the optional protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, but has not signed nor ratified the third optional protocol on a communications procedure. The world ranking puts the spotlight back on several areas where children's rights were being ignored in Malaysia. One of the more recent examples is the interfaith custody battle of kindergarten teacher M. Indira Gandhi, where her minor children were unilaterally converted to Islam by their Muslim-convert father. On December 30, the Court of Appeal upheld the unilateral conversion to Islam of the children, Tevi Darsiny, 19, Karan Dinish, 17, and Prasana Diksa by their father. Following the decision, the Malaysian Bar expressed concern over the decision and said, among other things, the state authorities were required to respect the right of minor children and mothers to be included in decisions involving any change of the religion of children of a marriage in accordance to Malaysia's obligations under the CRC. Over the last year, there have also been renewed calls by civil society and opposition lawmakers for Malaysia to introduce the Sexual Offenders Registration Act following statistics that indicate that a woman is raped every 15 minutes in the country, whereby half of the victims were below 16. Nine years have gone by since it was first mooted by police in 2007 and supported by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry after the case of Nurin Jazlin Jazimin, eight, who was raped and murdered with the body dumped in a bag. The latest cases included an 11-year-old raped by her 35-year-old brother-in-law and another incident where a woman was allegedly raped repeatedly by her tuition teacher since she was 14. On child porn, there was uproar in May last year over news that Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin, a Malaysian student studying at Imperial College UK, was convicted of possessing more than 30,000 images of child porn and sentenced to 18 months' jail by the Southwark Crown Court in London in April 2015. The images were classified by UK police as "Category A", being some of the worst images of child porn, including sexual penetration of children. Malaysian lawyers then commented that there appeared to be no laws in the country to tackle possession of porn if the likes of Nur Fitri were to view obscene material here. This is because while Section 292 of the Penal Code deals with sale and distribution of obscene material, and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) deal with the making, creating and transmitting of such material, they do not touch on the issue of possession and viewing. – February 15, 2016. ]]>

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