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End of mission statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, on her visit to Malaysia (24 September- 1 October 2018)

Kuala Lumpur, 1 October 2018 

Good afternoon and thank you for coming.

Let me start by thanking the Government of Malaysia for the invitation extended to me to undertake a visit to the country from 24 September to 1 October 2018. This is the first visit of a UN Human Rights Council appointed Special Rapporteur to monitor, report and advise on issues related to the sale, sexual exploitation and abuse of children in the country.

Malaysia has been constructively engaging with the UN independent experts and I hope this practice will continue in order to enhance the promotion and protection of all human rights through sharing of good practices and effective strategies, in particular in the South-East Asian region. 

The objective of my visit was to assess the scope of sale and sexual exploitation of children in the country, and the measures adopted by the authorities to prevent and combat it, ensure accountability and provide care, recovery and reintegration to child victims with a special focus on the particularly vulnerable children, such as refugee, asylum seeking, stateless and undocumented children. 

During my eight day visit I have met with multiple stakeholders, both in the Penisula (Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur), and Sabah (including State representatives from Sarawak) and have come to understand how special the situation is both in terms of legislation, customary law, practice and reality on the ground, in particular in the context of migration. I held meetings with representatives of various Ministries, including the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women; Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Attorney General’s Chamber and various agencies, including the Department of Sharia Judiciary Malaysia, Department of Islamic Development, Office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court. I also had the opportunity to meet with the representatives of Royal Police Malaysia dealing with sexual crimes and crimes against children, Malaysia Prison Department, Immigration Department, National Strategic Office for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants, the National Registration Department of Malaysia and the Department of Labour of Peninsular Malaysia. In Sabah, I held meeting with the Ministry of Law and Native Affair, Ministry of Health and People’s Wellbeing, Sabah Native Affairs Office, Immigration Department and Sabah National Security Council. I had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in Kuala Lumpur and Sabah, and meet the Malaysian Bar Council. I also met with the representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and of the private (business) sector. I visited the Rumah Perlindungan ATIP shelter home for girls, the Depot Imigresen Bukit Jalil, and met with young members of the Rohingya community at the Rohingya Women’s Development Network. During my on-site visits I met with children. 

I am grateful to the Government for their openness, flexibility and excellent collaboration before and during the visit. I would like to thank to all State interlocutors, including in Sabah and Sarawak, for following up on our meetings by providing additional information, including statistics which I will incorporate in my comprehensive report due to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2019. Everyone who met with me, I want to express my gratitude for their readiness to engage in an open dialogue on the issue of sale and sexual exploitation of children in the country, and for their willingness to find solutions to end this scourge and to provide protection and assistance to child victims and children in vulnerable situations. I also wish to express my gratitude to the UN Country Team, in particular the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, UNICEF and UNHCR, for their support and assistance. 

Positive steps and developments

Malaysia has achieved remarkable economic growth over the past decades. Parallel to pursuing economic growth, the promotion and protection of human rights is receiving prominent attention as also expressed in the Manifesto by the recently formed Government following the elections in spring this year. Malaysia has adopted numerous legislative and policy measures to protect children from sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation, including the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling in Migrants Act 2007, and its successive amendments; the 2016 amendments to the Child Act 2001. 

I have learnt about the establishment of Child Protection Teams at both State and district levels targeting children vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation, the forthcoming amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act, aimed at protecting a child from economic exploitation including child labour, and national plans of action on anti-trafficking in persons 2016–2020, on Child Online Protection (2015) and the National Human Rights Action Plan of 2018. 

As a highly connected country, the flagship awareness raising campaigns Click Wisely, education tools and internet safety modules on topics such as cyberbullying, smart parenting, online grooming; current plans and partnership with the private sector to curb human trafficking and tightening security control to identify syndicate groups, are examples of efforts undertaken by the Government to better address the emerging forms of online sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation.
While these measures are well-intended and welcome, they are rarely targeted at children of non-Malaysian nationality arriving on boats from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, who are in dire need for help and protection as they are often at risk to become easy preys to traffickers for the purpose of forced begging, sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labour or marriage. 

Malaysia should put the best interests of the child without any distinction and discrimination at the heart of its immigration policies and refrain from and curb increasingly poisonous rhetoric that portrays migrant workers and their children as a potential threat to national security. Such rhetoric also contributes to an environment where exploitation and abuse of the most innocent victims - children - are tolerated and accepted and where the national immigration policy often excessively relies on arrest, detention and rapid deportation of irregular migrants.

Malaysia has ratified three of the nine core international human rights treaties, and is contemplating the accession to other major international human rights instruments, including the 1951 Convention on Refugees. I was told by authorities that the accession of the remaining treaties is pending the overall reform of the domestic legislation with a view to bringing it in conformity with these treaties. I believe that the ratification of these treaties in parallel with the harmonization of its unique dual justice system would help address the remaining loopholes and inconsistencies between Sharia, civil and customary law that continue to hamper the full protection of children from sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The later is further exacerbated by economic disparities between the States, the divergence in opinions and interpretation of what the child well-being or best interest means, often driven by patriarchal structures of the society, customs or misconception that for example, marrying off the child prevents casual pre-marital sex or relieves families of financial burden or stigma, rather than holding the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

Other factors preventing the full realization of children’s rights pertain to the absence of comprehensive child protection system for all children in Malaysia, resulting in unequal access to State child protection laws and welfare services for children at risk, including lack of proper identification procedures and referral of victims of trafficking in the absence of accessible and child-friendly complaints mechanisms and insufficient welfare officers. Training of both welfare officers and law enforcement on the implications of recently enacted laws on sexual offences against children is imperative. The available data on investigations, prosecutions and convictions based on the sexual Offences against Children Act and Anti Trafficking Act do not appear to reflect that accountability is ensured for all perpetrators of these crimes and can not be regarded as indicators to measure the scale and magnitude of the issues of sale, trafficking and other forms of child exploitation. 

During my visit, I was encouraged by the political will of varying degree to deliver on human rights commitments undertaken in the manifesto, 21 out of 60 of which relate to institutional and legal development. While the political will is important, the outreach and awareness raising activities, community support and necessary budgetary allocations especially for remote areas in Sabah and Sarawak, are crucial to bring about the necessary changes in the best interests of children in Malaysia. Indeed, the law is only part of the solution. A more holistic approach is needed, including a robust and non-discriminatory child protection system, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and multilingual awareness raising targeting marginalised communities. Moreover, the active participation of Sharia and native courts and Islamic community leaders is critical to reconcile the differences between State and Federal law, on matters related to the best interests and well-being of children.

My visit to Malaysia came at an opportune time and I hope it will help shape the ongoing debates initiated by several States over the minimum legal age for marriage for girls and boys. Children, civil society organisations and communities at large should partake in these discussions and consultative processes and their opinions should be duly taken into account. I am also hopeful that my visit will accelerate the preparation and submission of the overdue reports under the CRC and its OPSC and will expedite the withdrawal of reservations to the CRC Articles 2 (non-discrimination) and Article 7 (name and nationality). The later will address one of the commitments issued by the new Government in its electoral Manifesto to advance the interests of Orang Asal in Peninsular Malaysia through simplifying and reducing the bureaucratic red tape involved in registering children, and ensuring that the principle of non-discrimination applies to all children, including those belonging to vulnerable groups, indigenous and minority children living in remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak, asylum seeking and refugee children as well as unregistered children and children of  migrant workers. I am convinced that these measures will reduce the vulnerability of children at risk of becoming victims of sale and trafficking for sexual abuse. 

I have identified three areas of concern relating to the sale and sexual exploitation of children that require the urgent attention of authorities, namely the child marriage; the sale and trafficking of children for sexual abuse and different forms of exploitation, including online child sexual abuse; prevention, accountability, recovery and care. 

I call upon Malaysia as a global player and one of the most open economies in the world to double its efforts to meet its human rights and SDG commitments by affording all children and especially those most at risk, the protection they need. This includes, inter alia, harmonising its legislation to introduce safeguards and concrete non-discriminatory welfare and poverty eradication measures; to protect refugee and asylum-seeking and stateless children; and working with vibrant civil society organisations to facilitate child protection referral pathways, case management and monitoring mechanisms for effective prevention of cases of forced marriages, sale and trafficking of children and child sexual exploitation. 

Child marriage 

Child marriage is detrimental to the basic rights of the child. It is considered a form of forced marriage with adverse public health-related consequences, often associated with early and frequent pregnancies and subsequent higher infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates, schools drop outs and increased risk of domestic violence. Despite the withdrawal by Malaysia of its reservation to article 16 (2) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child marriages continue to be permitted under both the Law Reform Act 1976 and the Islamic Family Law (Federal Territories) Act 1984. The 2016 amendment to the Child Act 2001 does not outlaw child marriage. The issue of child marriage is further exacerbated by the existence of parallel legal system of civil law and multiple versions of the Sharia law, and the implications of the dual legal system in family and religious matters. The Islamic Family Law Act 1984 sets the minimum age of marriage of girls at 16 while it is 18 for boys. In addition, the Sharia judges may grant permission to even earlier marriages in “certain circumstances” while native courts permit marriage at the age 12, as soon as the child reaches puberty. What is considered to be “certain circumstances” is unclear and has not been defined. There is no formal procedure or guidelines that judges must follow in considering marriage applications and it is up to the discretion of the Sharia judge to approve the application. What is more, child marriage promotes gender-based discrimination by setting different minimum age of marriage for boys and girls. 

I am yet to receive comprehensive data on child marriages in Malaysia. The deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Women, Family and Community Development was quoted as saying that 5362 applications in total were submitted to Sharia court between 2013 and 2017 by under 16 age years old, with the highest numbers registered in Sabah, Sarawak in eastern Malaysia and in Kelantan in Peninsular Malaysia. In 2017, a total of 147 non-Muslim underage marriage applications were registered by the National Registration Department. According to the Sabah Native Affairs Office, 2130 out of 2191 registered applications by under age group of 14-15 were granted during the period of 2003 -2017. In all cases, the decision were reportedly made based on the discretionary power of the judge relying, among others, on parents’ permission and their readiness to support the young couple while they are still underage. No provision is made to ensure the free and informed consent of the child bride: children simply follow their parents’ lead.

I have learnt of cases when underage girls were trafficked into Malaysia to be sold into marriages and prostitution. These marriages are reportedly also brokered by relatives to pay the smuggling debts or reportedly protect underage girls from falling victim of traffickers. I am not aware of any prosecutions or convictions of perpetrators of these crimes. 

Furthermore, there is no statistics as to divorce rates following these marriages or instances of violence occurring in the relationship. There are no proper mechanisms to identify and assist child marriage victims and cases are rarely reported. 

I was made aware of several cases in which perpetrators of rape have sought to evade prosecution by marrying their underage victims. In at least one case, as a result of outcry by women’s organisations, the perpetrator was later re-charged and is currently serving a 12-year sentence. No measures were taken by authorities to nullify the marriage. Despite the 2015 amendments to the Penal Code (Art 375 A) to criminalize marital rape, the act of violence by the intimate partner is not included within the scope of the Domestic Violence Act, thereby denying unmarried women access to protection orders and compensation under the Act. It is also common to resort to child marriage as means to escape prosecution for statutory rape. Furthermore, the definition of rape in Article 375 is narrow as it does not define non-consensual oral and anal penetration as rape and assumes that rape can only be inflicted on women. I was made aware of a barbaric case committed by a 60 year old rapist who impregnated an underage girl with his semen-smeared fingers. He was acquitted by the Court of Appeal on a technicality. An inclusive definition is needed to protect rape survivors of all genders from all forms of violations of their bodily autonomy. 

I was informed by the representatives of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, one of the key State interlocutors in eradicating child marriage, that the Ministry is working towards raising the minimum legal age of marriage to 18, for both boys and girls without exception. I was also encouraged to learn that the State of Selangor has taken concrete measures to elevate the minimum age of marriage in the law pending its adoption, and has spelled out the conditions under which an underage can marry, which means that there will still be exceptions made for Muslim girls to be allowed to marry below the age of 18. Even more disturbing is that some States are reportedly contemplating to lower the age of marriage to 14 or even 12. I was reassured by the Deputy Minister that efforts are on the way to discuss the matter with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to raise the marriage age for Muslims and non-Muslims. 

While stringent guidelines (SOPs) are reportedly being drafted to spell out other circumstances, their mere existence would still legitimize child marriage, which in itself jeopardizes these efforts as it is not reconcilable with the very objective of increasing marriageable age.  

My preliminary recommendation is for education and health setting practitioners, communities and religious leaders to work together to create a more harmonious legal framework by increasing the legal marriageable age for all girls and boys to 18 years without exception; ensure awareness raising and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education amongst the most marginalised and hard to reach communities on the adverse effects of early marriages on children. I call upon communities to speak up about child sexual abuse and exploitation without fear for shame and stigma that perpetuates the practice of child marriage as a legitimate solution, and instead file complaints to special courts set up to deal with such cases and ensure that cases result in effective investigation, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators and that they do not evade criminal sanctions by marrying their victims. 

Sale and trafficking of children for sexual abuse and exploitation

The scope and magnitude of the sale and trafficking of children across the border with Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines and within the country for sexual and labour exploitation is an issue of grave concern in Malaysia to many of my interlocutors who are confronted with the plight of victims.

Refugee and asylum seeking children, undocumented, street and migrant children are particularly exposed to the worst forms of exploitation, such as sexual exploitation and child labour, as a result of sale or trafficking by unscrupulous syndicates or other criminal networks. The real extent of these crimes is unknown due to the unavailability of comprehensive and disaggregated data on the number of cases identified, investigated and prosecuted disaggregated by country of origin, age, gender of perpetrators and victims, type of abuse or exploitation and the number of perpetrators arrested and convicted. 

A clear estimation is also complicated by the fact that child trafficking cases are not separated from other human trafficking statistics partially because the Penal Code does not differentiate between the different forms of exploitation and the exploitation of children and that of adults, nor refers to the sale of children. 

The fact that insufficient and reliable data are publicly available can in part be attributed to the operation of the Official Secrecy Act, which gives a wide discretionary power to authorities. Many more efforts are required to ensure that the traumatised young victims of these crimes are receiving adequate support for their recovery and reintegration into society.

Vulnerable groups: Refugees, asylum seekers, stateless and undocumented children 

The phenomena of sale of children, child sexual abuse and exploitation is vast and real in Malaysia against the backdrop of stateless, asylum seeking and refugee population. According to UNHCR’s estimate, as at August 2018, 161,140 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, including 42,620 children below the age of 18 of which 989 are unaccompanied and separated children. There is limited reliable data on the numbers of children born in Malaysia to irregular and migrant workers. The biggest population of stateless children born to immigrants in irregular situations and living in the streets are reportedly in State of Sabah which also ranks the highest for teenage pregnancy and abandoned babies. 

Due to the lack of a domestic protection framework regarding their status, these children have limited or no access to primary education, healthcare and other welfare services and are at heightened risk of falling victim of sale and sexual exploitation. In the absence of identity documents, children from these groups are particularly prone to become victims of trafficking, child forced labour or street begging, sexual and labour exploitation, abuse and even disappearance. Frequent raids by the immigration police result in them being detained for a short period of time and released or not at the discretion of the arresting officer. Often, due to the lack of training or resources, child victims of trafficking are easily overlooked and subject to “repatriation”. 

Even if birth registration is mandatory in Malaysia, numerous implementation gaps remain, including lack of access to registration services, inconsistent administrative procedures, and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for birth registration, lack of mobile birth registration units to proactively reach out to remote, poor and illiterate communities. Other issues contributing to statelessness pertain to difficulties to acquire citizenship for children born to Malaysian fathers and foreign mothers out of wedlock or when their marriage is not recognized by the Malaysian authorities (either traditional marriage or marriage registered overseas). Similarly, children are rendered stateless when born to Malaysian mothers who are stateless and to a foreign father. The issue of documentation is further complicated by the fact that it is under the authority of the Federal jurisdiction and State authorities can only issue recommendations about possible solutions. 

I was informed by the National Registration Department about their plans to engage community leaders as registrars in remote areas. Other positive measures foreseen are free of charge birth registrations, registration of non-Malaysian children born in Malaysia and children born in remote areas of the country. It is important that at a minimum, these children have access to primary education and affordable public health services. NGOs and alternative learning centers are currently filling in these gaps by using the syllabus of neighbouring countries as these centers are not registered with the Ministry of Education and cannot use the official syllabus. Review of the education policy for these and refugee children is of the utmost importance, starting with access to public primary education. Authorities should step up their efforts to improve birth registration practices to prevent statelessness and ensure that all children born in Malaysia are registered at birth. 

Child abuse and neglect 

In Malaysia, an estimated 64,000 children live in childcare institutions and in registered and unregistered Government and private orphanages. These care institutions are funded by the Government and charities, religious bodies, corporations and individuals. According to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, a total of 581 child abuse cases involving child caregivers were reported from 2015 until June 2017. As these figures indicate, children are at risk of being physically and sexually abused by older children or staff due to a lack of oversight. I was made aware of a tragic death of a former student of a school registered with the State Religious Authority, who was reportedly assaulted by the dormitory assistant warden. Cases in such educational settings are rarely reported. The Government should step up its efforts to ensure that there are proper oversight and accessible complaints mechanisms in place as well as vetting procedures and up to dated child offenders’ register.

Online child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation  

With 24.5 million Internet users and household broadband penetration rate (fixed and mobile) at 115.9% nationwide, Malaysia has one of the highest proportions of active internet users among the youth aged 15 to 24. While ICTs ensure the access to information, they can also facilitate the online abuse and exploitation of children. 

Malaysian Government is taking proactive measures to ensure online safety and curb the spreading of child abuse material. Part II of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 criminalises the preparation of, or the making, production or direction of child pornography, the exchanging, publishing, selling and accessing child abuse material. The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) assists the Royal Malaysian Police primarily via blocking access to websites containing child abuse materials and providing assistance on suspect identification and digital forensic analysis. According to the MCMC, based on public complaints, and in cooperation with the Royal Malaysian Police, a total of 401 websites containing child abuse materials were blocked between 2015 and 2018. I also hope to receive information as to how many IP addresses in Malaysia upload and download child pornography to and from the internet and how many children had been groomed and/or sexually assaulted by perpetrators, they had met through the internet. To my knowledge, there have been no prosecution and/or ongoing investigation in relation to these complaints. 

MCMC under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has embarked on an awareness campaign through the flagship programme Click Wisely, education tools and internet safety modules on topics such as cyberbullying, smart parenting, online grooming which are promising examples of the efforts to better address the emerging forms of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. 

In 2018, the Government launched an Internet Crime Against Children Investigation Unit (MICAC) who are tasked 24/7 to use a software to monitor, locate and pin-point child pornography viewers and disseminators, in order to obtain evidence for prosecution. Although Malaysia has a system in place to detect child abuse content based on photo DNA and report to the Malaysian Royal Police, it lacks the capacity and manpower to monitor all harmful content in particular child abuse materials. It also does not have access to the retention of IP addresses for evidence. Getting proper IP retention regulation is an important step in collecting evidence for investigation and subsequent prosecution of perpetrators. The efficiency of this Unit could be further enhanced by more cooperation with the private sector, such as Internet Service Providers, on the basis of MoU’s such as the one concluded with Facebook. 

Commercial surrogacy arrangements that can amount to sale of children 

I have not been able to obtain statistics from the Ministry of Health on the scale of surrogacy practices in Malaysia despite the existing fertility centres and surrogacy agencies and clinics reportedly practicing surrogacy arrangement in Malaysia. The lack of a regulatory body to oversee surrogacy arrangements may further facilitate the commercial exploitation of marginalized women and sale of children. The Government should urgently look into introducing comprehensive regulation and ensure consistent monitoring of reproductive medicine practices in the areas of IVF/surrogacy procedures as to the rights and obligations of parties to a surrogacy, and the rights of children born as a result of such practices.
Likewise, I was also unable to obtain information on the number of adoptions. I remain concerned at the absence of a national uniform adoption law, at the different procedures for adoption between States, as well as prevalence of informal adoptions, which are neither registered nor monitored. 

Measures to combat the sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation of children  

Malaysia has undertaken commendable steps to strengthen child protection laws by enacting the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and setting up in 2017, Special Court for Sexual Crimes Against Children, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. I also heard about specialised courts for children in Sarawak, Selangor and Johor. While legislative measures are commendable, their enforcement and accountability is crucial at both Federal and at State level. Challenges faced in implementing laws to combat sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation of children are manifold: difficulties to reconcile different legal systems; upholding the principle of non-discrimination in law and practice; the lack of disaggregated data; insufficient outreach, cooperation and coordination, including with the States of Sabah and Sarawak and with Malaysia’s vibrant NGO sector. Other significant deterrents are the lack of victim identification and referral procedures on one hand and lack of accessible and child-friendly complaints mechanisms on the other. The lack of robust non-discriminatory child protection system focusing on the recovery and care for victims and ensuring accountability of perpetrators is also of concern. Other factors include insufficient jurisprudence to inform and guide the investigative bodies and judges themselves on recently enacted laws on sexual offences against children. It is important that judicial proceedings are conducted in a child sensitive manner: any remaining deficiencies of proceedings as far as victim and witness protection and re-victimization is concerned, need to be addressed urgently. Failure to investigate cases, and the lack of convictions of perpetrators contribute to the cycle of impunity. The instances where complaints are lodged to the police, rarely lead to convictions. In some instances they are retracted by victims under pressure of their perpetrators or the family. The existing helplines are mainly to identify victims of domestic abuse and missing children and are mostly conducted in Malay language. It is not clear how accessible these complaints mechanisms are to children in most precarious situations, including street and undocumented children. 

It is important that the Government continues to expand bilateral and multilateral agreements and partnership with other countries of origin, transit and destination, to prevent trafficking in and sale of children; establish an effective screening process to identify child victims of trafficking and ensure they are provided with adequate recovery and social reintegration services and programmes, and that cases are investigated and perpetrators are charged and convicted. Awareness raising activities targeting vulnerable communities, tourism industry and employment agencies are needed to effectively tackle the impunity and reach out to victims. Additional training and capacity building activities are also needed for better screening and referral mechanisms as part of initial reception arrangements to ensure that vulnerabilities and protection needs of asylum-seekers and other groups are identified at early stages.  

Prevention, accountability, recovery and care 

Unless NGOs intervene to provide protection and alternative shelter, and unless there are apparent signs of distress, law enforcement does not tend to proactively screen potential victim for indications of trafficking for sale or sexual exploitation. Instead, they are placed in immigration detention centers pending interim protection order to identify their status usually followed by deportation or repatriation. Underage victims of trafficking, so called invisible domestic workers, whose identity and age are often falsified by their employers and criminal syndicates, end up being detained, prosecuted and convicted as adults during raids and roundups conducted by immigration and law enforcement operations. Victims of trafficking of sexual exploitation may as well end up stranded in detention camps and detention centers for months and even longer, awaiting their deportation. I met mothers with children as young as 1.5 and 5 years old being placed in the same cell with adults. The five year old child was visibly distressed and traumatised given the conditions in which he was held with others awaiting repatriation. Authorities should, at a minimum, ensure that women with young children are not detained in immigration detention centres and are provided with alternative solutions, such as being placed in NGO-run shelters. 

While NGOs provide victim rehabilitation and counselling services in most shelters, I heard about difficulties they face in reaching out victims for counselling, care and recovery. The Immigration Department charged with investigating suspected cases of unaccompanied and separated children and the Welfare Department could further benefit from close collaboration with NGOs and NGO-run shelters and safe houses in order to reach to child victims of sexual exploitation for assistance. 

The Government has increased the allocation of funds to maintain the two facilities to house trafficking victims maintained by the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development and is planning to establish three new shelters in the states of Kedah, Kelantan, and Sarawak. I call on authorities to also allocate funds and resources to improve the conditions of the Sabah Children courtesy home which is located in the compound of the immigration detention center and is not suitable for children. The same applies to the conditions in which women with children were held in Depot Imigresen Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur and which I visited myself. The latter is not designed for holding people for prolonged periods of time. 

In conclusion, I encourage the authorities of Malaysia to pursue the reform initiated to uphold and promote children’s rights in line with its international human rights commitments, but above all to promote a change of mindset amongst the people of Malaysia and sensitise them to contribute to eradicating the many human rights violations in respect of children, which continue to occur, based on the principle of non-discrimination, one of the core values enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Thank you for your attention.