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Divorce contributing to child abuse

2011/05/28 Parents who go through messy divorces face undue stress and tend to take it out on their children, leading to neglect and abuse KUALA LUMPUR: Divorce is becoming a major contributor to child abuse, which is on the uptrend in the country, said Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Heng Seai Kie. She said parents who go through messy divorces face undue stress and tend to take it out on their children, leading to neglect and abuse. Apart from this, children become victims of custody battles between parents with the situation worsening when families of both parties decide to interfere as well, she told reporters after launching the Children's Forum 2011 themed 'Voices for Judicial Change', here today. She said the number of child abuse cases reported to the Ministry of Welfare (JKM) increased to 2,961 cases last year compared to 2,789 in 2009. The higher divorce rate among Muslim couples was also worrying, she said, adding that there were 27,116 cases involving non-Muslim couples in 2009 compared to 22,289 the previous year. The non-Muslim divorce rate, however, decreased to 2,938 cases in 2009 as opposed to 3,633 cases in 2008, she added This was the official figure and did not include non-registered separations or divorce. Heng also said the government formulated the National Family Policy (DKN) this March to strengthen the family institution. According to her, the DKN would be the main guideline for all parties to include the family perspective in legislation, policies, procedures, rules and development programmes. The Children's Forum held in conjunction with International Family Day was organised by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) and United National Children's Organisation Malaysia (UNCOM). The forum covered factors contributing to child abuse, ways of understanding families going through divorce and the role and services of government and private sector agencies in child protection. - Bernama Write to the Editor for editorial enquiry or Sales Department for sales and advertising enquiry. Copyright 2010 NST Online. All rights reserved.

'Be proactive on child abuse'

By Yiswaree Palansamy 2010/10/23 KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians need to adopt a more proactive role in dealing with the problem of child abuse and alerting the authorities. In making the call yesterday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said: "Child abuse is not a private and confidential matter. "Therefore, Malaysians must know what constitutes child abuse and what they, as conscientious citizens, can do to prevent it," she said at the Putra World Trade Centre here. She said the public must be more responsible and help the authorities in dealing with the problem by contacting bodies such as the police, the Welfare Department and Wanita Umno's 'Skuad Sayang' should they come across such cases. She noted that the government had played a proactive role by setting up the Talian Nur 15999 hotline in 2007 for the public to phone in to report cases of child abuse and the introduction of the national child protection policy last year. However, she said the move would not be effective if the people were not aware of the issue and did not play their part. Earlier, she signed a digital pledge on Unicef's website to mark the ministry's support of its "Get On Board" integrated digital campaign against child abuse. "We have formed a smart partnership with Unicef in addressing this issue, which Wanita Umno also welcomes and is prepared to work hand-in-hand with the international body," said Shahrizat, who is also Wanita Umno chief. The two-month campaign, which began yesterday, aims to register 100,000 digital pledges in the country to show support in the fight against child abuse. The public can log onto for more information and ways to pledge their support. Write to the Editor for editorial enquiry or Sales Department for sales and advertising enquiry. Copyright 2010 NST Online. All rights reserved.

'Most child abusers known to their victims'

2010/12/16 KUALA LUMPUR: Of the 1,790 child abuse cases reported from January to August this year, assailants in 1,680 of the cases were known to the victims. Statistics by the Social Welfare Department revealed that only 110 cases reported were committed by strangers. In the remaining cases, the abusers were the victims' parents (808 cases), relatives (322), mothers' boyfriends (270), non-family members known to the victims (231), neighbours (26) and victims' siblings (23). Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Senator Heng Seai Kie said the fact that the child abuser was known to the victim was a scary phenomenon. "The increasing number of child abuse cases in the country is worrisome. Moreover, in most cases, the abuser was the one who was supposed to protect the children," she said after the closing ceremony of the United Nations Children's Fund's (Unicef) Get on Board campaign yesterday. She added that the statistics by the Social Welfare Department, which was under the ministry, has also showed an increase in reported child abuse cases from an average of seven cases daily in 2008 to 11 cases daily in the first quarter of this year. "These include the various types of abuse such as neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. "Child abuse is an illness, and it is an illness that is by no means exclusive to us. "The ministry is very cognisant of the gravity of the problem and has put into place several measures to address the issue which will include the tabling of the Social Worker Act in Parliament next year." She added that the act was to regulate the profession of social work in the country and strengthen the provision of welfare services. Heng said that the ministry would work with Unicef in the future to conduct studies to better understand child abuse cases in the country. "Such studies are necessary so that our policies and programmes can be tailored to address the issue more effectively."

The digitally-driven campaign, Get on Board which started on Oct 6, emphasises the urgent need for a change of mindset in society, from "reluctant to act on child abuse cases" to "the willingness to take action". The two-month campaign collected 44,000 "champions" to raise their hand to be counted in efforts to stop child abuse through Write to the Editor for editorial enquiry or Sales Department for sales and advertising enquiry. Copyright 2010 NST Online. All rights reserved.

For the children's sake, be a busybody

By Masami Mustaza and Rozanna Latiff 2010/11/21 PETALING JAYA: The Malay idiom "jaga tepi kain orang" (being a busybody) carries a bad connotation, but it is exactly what the government is urging people to do. The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry hopes this will help put a stop to child abuse. Its secretary-general, Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur, said people should not be afraid of contacting the authorities or helplines such as Childline/Talian Nur if they suspect or witness child abuse. "This is one area where the 'jaga tepi kain' habit can be useful. Reporting is the only way to enable the authorities to take action against child abusers," she said at the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) Family Fun Day, held in conjunction with Universal Children's Day, at a shopping complex here. Jointly organised by the ministry, Unicef and Childline, the event was held to create awareness of Unicef's "Get On Board" campaign, aimed at educating the public on child abuse and collecting 100,000 signatures on its website,, in time for World Human Rights Day next month. An average of seven children were abused in the country every day in 2008, according to Welfare Department statistics. In 2008, 2,780 child abuse cases were reported, compared with 2,279 in 2007 and 1,999 in 2006. Unicef representative to Malaysia, Hans Olsen, said families were children's first line of protection. "Family provides a natural framework for the emotional nourishment and support that is indispensable to a child's development. "Children who grow up in a secure family life with love and affection are often better adjusted, confident and well-behaved compared with their peers who have struggled with violence and abuse." Olsen said change of communities and increased economic stress were among the causes of child abuse. "Raising children is tough even under ideal circumstances. Many families today lack the luxury of an ideal household. "Job losses, divorce, poverty and substance addiction, as well as the accompanying

stress and isolation, can be breeding grounds for child abuse." To make a report or learn more about child abuse, call Childline/Talian Nur at 15999 or visit Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil yesterday assured Putrajaya childcare provi-ders, who have been unable to get their services registered, that they would be assisted soon. The minister said their services were necessary to the community and that the ministry would look into their plight. On Tuesday, the New Straits Times highlighted that home-based childcare providers in the government quarters could not register their services because of a by-law imposed by the Property and Land Management Division, which comes under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department. There are 48 women -- wives of civil servants -- who have received training from Projek Asuhan Prihatin (PAP), a body that provides basic courses to home-based childcare providers. PAP's training is recognised by the Welfare Department. "Childcare providers need to get approval from three agencies (the Health Department, local council and Fire and Rescue Department). "However, we need more of these services, which are in accordance with the Welfare Department's regulations. So, we will bring it up with the relevant authority to see how we can help these housewives register their services," Shahrizat said after attending a Hari Raya Aidiladha programme at Masjid at-Taufiqiah in Kampung Datuk Harun here. Write to the Editor for editorial enquiry or Sales Department for sales and advertising enquiry. Copyright 2010 NST Online. All rights reserved.

Be aware, act on all forms of child abuse

By Zarazuela Zolkipli 2011/03/19 WAITING for the scars may be too late to save a child. Over the past two decades, there have been increasing efforts worldwide to prevent the rising incidence of child abuse. In Malaysia, the Welfare Department's 2008 statistics provide evidence for this alarming increase. The Unicef "Get on Board" campaign was launched last year, aimed at educating the public on child abuse. The term "child abuse" brings to most people's minds a vulnerable child, covered with scars from physical or sexual abuse. But those of us who work with children have seen the equally damaging effects of emotional, psychosocial abuse, or neglect: the substantial parental failure to care for a child. The Unicef representative to Malaysia, Hans Olsen, urged the nation to understand this broader definition of child abuse. It is imperative that the public understands the importance of this statement. If you think that physical and sexual abuse are the only types of abuse, then all the other child abuse cases would be missed. Equally, do not wait for cuts and bruises on a child before taking action. We cannot wait for more children to die or be scarred for life. How many more deaths from child abuse are needed to prompt earlier action? Or do we forget the last death after sufficient time has passed, until the next case shocks the nation again? If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, then action needs to be taken to protect the welfare of the child. This advice falls flat if the public does not change its attitude and take action. Perhaps this stems from a lack of awareness, different moralistic or religious backgrounds, different opinions on what is acceptable, or reluctance to be seen as menyebok or interfering. The fact is that enquiries into deaths from child abuse often show up missed opportunities for prevention. If only someone had taken earlier action. In my article here on March 26 last year, I expressed my disappointment at learning the Malaysian public's attitude to the caning of young children. Although most people would strongly object to caning, there remains a significant minority who are complacent about this practice. "Ah, unfortunately caning is common in Malaysia." I regard this as an irresponsible, apathetic acceptance of an age-old culture. We are a forward-thinking society and will soon be a developed nation. It is time for Malaysians to stand up to this complacency, to declare any form of child abuse unacceptable, and to act accordingly. I work in an unforgiving environment with zero tolerance of child abuse. Any professional working with children, be it a doctor, nurse, social worker or teacher who

comes across yet fails to document, or report their concerns on a child's welfare, is heavily reprimanded, sacked, demoted or retrained. This zero tolerance needs to be adopted in Malaysia. However, if public attitudes are going to change, then well-regulated government agencies need to be in place. There is nothing more disheartening than when mustering the courage to take action, one hits a brick wall because no regulated system exists. At present, we may have legislation on paper, but in practice, many with first-hand experience will readily report the lack of standardised regulations, the inadequacies of social welfare workers and most alarmingly, the lack of a "quality control" monitoring system to enable the early detection of these failures. In April 2007, the New Sunday Times revealed that only one out of 10 social workers in the country was trained for the job. Three years after the story was published, the National Competency Standards for Social Work was introduced to establish standards for social workers. Last year, the New Straits Times reported another update on the lack of trained social workers. On making important decisions, one often has to call upon one's own beliefs and morals. In child protection matters, no one should be making decisions alone. The inadequacy of this individualised system is a disaster waiting to happen. In the case of a child abuse victim in the United Kingdom, Victoria Climbie, the enquiry learnt that the social worker for the victim made serious errors of judgment and decided that Victoria was not at risk of "significant harm". The case was closed a week before she died from horrific injuries. We need to learn from this tragedy. Decisions surrounding child protection should not be left to any one individual. They should be multi-agency, with strict regulations in place. We should applaud the plans for the Social Workers Bill, proposed last year by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry. There is an urgent need for this. Similarly, nationwide child protection regulations and legislation-approved child protection training of all relevant workers should be enforced in the Malaysian judicial, police force, medical and education systems, to ensure a well-monitored and standardised, not individualised, system of safeguarding children. Or we would be failing to protect children. And this would not be in line with our trajectory as a developed nation. Dr Zarazuela Zolkipli is a paediatric neurologist Write to the Editor for editorial enquiry or Sales Department for sales and advertising enquiry. Copyright 2010 NST Online. All rights reserved.

CHILD NEGLECT AND ABUSE: Parents need support to relieve stress


CHILD abuse cases are on the rise. The cases that we hear of are those that have been reported to the authorities by teachers and caring neighbours.
It does not take into account the children who suffer in silence at home. Child abuse is quite prevalent among the lower-income group, and among those who marry young. Many of these parents are young, immature and had children without proper planning. Many are unable to cope with the children and often abuse them when under pressure. Stress affects men and women, and this sometimes causes them to abuse their children. Those undergoing divorce and facing financial problems and work pressure are also under tremendous physical, emotional and mental pressure. They tend to react violently and vent their anger and frustration onto innocent children. Divorce among the urban lower income group families has resulted in single parents who have to deal with the reversal of traditional roles -- the challenge of trying to earn a living while singlehandedly bringing up children. This has led to ill-treatment, neglect and abandonment of the children. Young couples should be given marriage counselling and family-planning courses so that they are aware of their responsibilities and commitment to each other. Marriages should not end in divorce. The single-parent phenomenon should not be condoned. It is not fair to the children. If divorce is inevitable, then good community support services such as childcare centres should be built to meet the needs of the community. A better support system for the urban poor single parents should be put in place so that their children can be looked after while they are at work. Stress and pressure caused by an abnormal demand to adapt to changes in our home and work life can result in child abuse. Workers in the public and private sectors should undergo psychiatric tests at least once a year to identify those suffering from depression or "burnout" that could affect their state of mind and productivity. Then, they can be sent for counselling and psychiatric treatment. Children are a gift from God. They never asked to be born into this world. We brought them in and, therefore, it is our responsibility to love and care for them. Even animals take better care of the their young. Don't have children if you cannot take care of them.