Azalina joins coalition in lambasting religious minister’s victim-blaming remarks against sexual abuse survivor

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Datuk Seri Azalina Othman condemned the precedent set by the Minister of Religious Affairs for silencing and downplaying the allegations of a child victim. — Photo by Yusof Mat Isa

By Ashman Adam

Saturday September 10, 2022 12:15 MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, September 10 – Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today that she supports the Joint Gender Action Group (JAG) condemnation of Religious Affairs Minister Datuk Idris Ahmad for victim blaming and silencing a child sexual abuse survivor.

Without naming the religious minister, Azalina questioned the precedent Idris would set by silencing and downplaying child victim allegations, especially with several laws already in place designed to help and protect victims of sexual abuse. .

“The JAG has raised similar concerns about silencing victims of sex crimes. Now what about our recently passed Sexual Harassment Act or the Children’s Act or the Children’s Act. sexual offenses against children?

“What kind of message and precedent are we setting? Using religion in particular to create fear, shame and the obligation to protect the reputation of a sexual predator is against all rules of protection laws children in this country,” she said in a statement today. .

The former justice minister went on to say that Idris’ remarks prove the system fails to protect vulnerable children, adding that no amount of reputation laundering can erase the trauma suffered by a victim, especially a child .

“If patriarchy persists at the highest level, compounded by toxic masculine values, what hope do we have for victims of sex crimes, especially vulnerable children?

“The system is failing them,” she said.

Azalina also shared that there are many avenues for victims of sexual abuse to seek justice for the crimes committed against them, but shared that the resources allocated to these avenues are not sufficient.

“When it comes to children, it’s a different playing field. There’s no point in having laws without proper enforcement and support systems in place.

“We have Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Teams, One-Stop Crises Centers (OSCC), Division D11 (Sexual, Children and Women Investigation), Child Interview Centers and Special Courts for Sexual Crimes Against children in the country, but the resources invested in these platforms remain insufficient,” she said.

She also pointed out that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Women, Children and Social Development had tabled a roadmap titled Strengthening Support for Child Victims and Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System 2022-2027 in July 2022, but did not had not yet received any comments from Putrajaya. .

According to Azalina, the roadmap recommends allowing children to have better access to support and assistance throughout the criminal justice process, among other things.

“The strategy includes a new model for managing and delivering comprehensive witness support services (WSS) for children, which involves transforming the existing one-stop crisis center into a full-fledged WSS that provides medical, psychosocial, legal and space to collect video recordings for oral evidence from witnesses of sex crimes.

“This is based on the ‘Barnahous’ model which is globally recognized as an evidence-based approach to a child-friendly, multi-disciplinary and integrated model of service for child survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.

She added that as World Children’s Day approaches on November 20, the best gift the government can give to children would be to commit to this roadmap.

The JAG condemned Idris’ victim blaming and silence yesterday, after a child survivor spoke out about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father on a YouTube podcast.

The JAG, in a statement, today said Idris’ response as minister was in breach of the Children’s Act 2001 and the Sexual Offenses Against Children Act 2017 (SOACA) of 2017 aimed at protecting children.

On September 6, Idris said that instead of exposing the matter and reporting the abuse to the police, she should have instead protected her father from humiliation.

Idris’ statement also angered several other MPs and NGOs, with Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto criticizing the minister’s remarks, saying people in ministerial positions should not make statements that would demoralize the victim and minimize the problem.

Kiran Kaur, advocacy officer for the Women’s Aid Organization, chimed in, saying the minister’s statement would perpetuate stigma around incidents of sexual abuse.

Deputy Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff confirmed that the victim and her mother had filed a police report into the incident.

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