KUALA LUMPUR : As the country grapples with the news that its young had been savagely abused sexually at the hands of a foreign paedophile, Putrajaya yesterday revealed that it is pursuing steps to build another layer of protection from such predators. It wants to introduce a suitable sex education syllabus for preschoolers in Malaysia, which will help children better understand the harm that could come their way from such individuals. Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid told the New Straits Times that the ministry would, among others, engage with early childhood experts to facilitate the plan. “We will meet with childhood experts and discuss the matter, including whether it is appropriate for the module to be implemented in pre-schools.” Paediatricians concerned about the increasing number of paedophilia cases and the risks faced by the country’s young, especially those posed by sex predators, said broaching the subject from as early as the preschool level was no longer an option.
In a joint statement, the Malaysian Paediatric Association and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia’s College of Paediatrics said while the subject may be deemed a taboo, approaching it in the curriculum, in the best way possible, would provide children and parents with safeguards against paedophilia. “It has been long established that sex education, which primarily teaches children about (ensuring their) safety against sex predators, is an effective way to keep the young safe from sexual abuse. “Sex education should serve as a ‘vaccine’ against sexual abuse, and the argument that sex education encourages early sexual activities among teenagers is archaic and a myth.” College president Professor Dr Thong Meow Keong and association president Dr Thiyagar Nadarajaw said children must be shielded from the scourge, as any form of sexual abuse would damage them in numerous ways. “Survivors may experience post-traumatic stress reactions and changes in their development. These may painfully trigger in them (a sense of) emotional isolation, betrayal, self-blame and guilt. “Hence, it is vital that the government, legislators, police, welfare (authorities), schools and the community make a concerted effort that is focused on keeping our children safe from sex predators.” The paediatricians called on the government to expedite the setting up of the country’s own sex offenders’ registry. They said the authorities, including legislators, must agree on laws requiring convicted paedophiles and sex offenders to be registered. “In Western countries, paedophiles and sex offenders are exposed by the media. There are websites that track convicted sex offenders.” They stressed the need to enact new laws and strengthen existing ones on child protection. “While paedophilia is considered a mental disorder, it is also a punishable criminal act. Treatment takes a long time and is complicated. Recidivism, or the tendency to relapse into criminal behaviour, is common. “Welfare and the relevant authorities managing children’s homes must design a vetting system to ensure potential child offenders are not employed.” Dr Thong and Dr Thiyagar said there was a critical need to conduct public awareness campaigns on ensuring child safety against sex offenders. They said parents must be reminded and educated about child safety, while children must be taught “stranger danger” rules, such as never to accept gifts from strangers and never to engage with them. They also warned parents about the easy access to pictures of children on the Internet, which had become among the contributing factors to paedophilia.