This session, moderated by Ms. Melissa Akhir from Wom- en’s Aid Organisation (WAO), looked at child trafficking and laws and best practices related to child rights in the local and international context. Subject-matter experts made their presentations followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session where participants discussed how to harmonise national legal framework to the
UN Trafficking Protocol and made recommendations for the next Na- tional Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) 2021 2025.
Pn. Syuhaida binti Abdul Wahab Zen, from National Stra- tegic Office, MAPO, spoke on “Trends and Landscape on Child Trafficking”, giving the government’s perspective regarding legislations and highlighted the amendments made in response to the changing trends and landscape of child trafficking such as the inclusion on NGOs, permis- sion for victims to move freely and work, and payment of monthly allowance to victims. The number of child trafficking cases in Malaysia is reportedly relatively low, with most cases involving sexual exploitation, labour ex- ploitation and baby selling. Through the NAPTIP, the Gov- ernment aims to strengthen the existing legal framework; have integrated action among enforcement agencies; raise public awareness; and put into place international standards in protection and rehabilitation. Key challenges faced by the Government include data collection as there is a need for detailed statistics; addressing specific needs of children in NAPTIP 2021-2025; need to strengthen laws and regulations and have better policy coherence; and to improve on victim identification indicators. Pn. Syuhaida closed with reiterating the need to work together across agencies and the need for stronger inter-governmental cooperation active collaboration with civil society organi- sations. (CSOs).
Mr. Quek Kia Ann from Department of Social Welfare (JKM) spoke on “Laws, Policies and Data on child Traffick- ing: in context of JKM’s role in protection of children in trafficking”. JKM’s main role is to provide care and protec- tion of trafficked persons, including children. The role and duties of the Protection Officers (POs) are stipulated in Section 43 of the ATIPSOM Act, where the POs are re- sponsible for assisting and liaising with the Investigating Officer such as preparing the relevant documents for placement of suspected trafficking victims at place of ref- uge and preparation of the Social Report based on infor- mation from suspected victims. Services and role of shel- ter include providing care, protection and basic needs for the victims; counselling and psycho-social support; educa-
tion program; vocational and skills training; medical treat- ment; awareness program; and other support services (visits from embassy, phone call and a small allowance). Some of these services are through collaboration with NGOs such as SUKA Society and Doctors Without Borders. Mr. Quek concluded by acknowledging the need for staff training and capacity building especially to be more child sensitive, and the need for more social workers and coun- selors.
Mr. Reynaldo Bicol from International Justice Mission (IJM)’s topic was on “Learning, successes and best practic- es in addressing child trafficking: the Philippines Experi- ence”. IJM’s mission is to protect the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities. They combat slavery in various forms around the world and collaborate with global partners. He highlighted the unique partnership between the state and NGOs that participate in nation building. The Philippines Government enacted the first anti-trafficking in persons act in Southeast Asia in 2003 that specifically prohibits trafficking in persons. It pro- vides a comprehensive and expanded definition on TIP, strict and heavy penalties on different trafficking acts, mandates inter-agency collaboration and a victim- centered approach. The Philippines Government’s ap- proach encompasses a coordinated strategy within a sup- portive environment to deter trafficking in persons and protect victims through ensuring effective law enforce- ment (by having dedicated anti trafficking police units), effective prosecution (by forming prosecutors’ task force) and effective after care provided by social welfare institu- tions. Based on IJM’s experience, when violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes, the abuse of vul- nerable victims is dramatically reduced. Effective criminal justice systems protect not only the children rescued but countless more who will never be abused. The scenario is changing as there is now an increase in online exploita- tion of children. Mr. Reynaldo closed by appealing for the need for strong enforcement of law and to have the best interest of the child.
Mr. Hairudin Masnin from International Labour Organisa- tion (ILO) spoke on “Local landscape on child labor and opportunities for collaboration”. He shared on ILO’s col- laboration with MAPO and the Ministry of Women, Fami- ly and Community Development (KPWKM). The Bridge Project, funded by the US Department of Labour, was a study conducted by ILO to give stakeholders an overview of issues and recommendations towards adopting a Na- tional Action Plan on child labour. The study looks at the nature and extent of child labour. Findings revealed the causes of child labour are lack of access to education; lack of documentation; low levels of awareness among par- ents, workers, community members, employers; children working alongside parents are considered a culture and tradition and not child labour; lack of children facilities; lack of enforcement; labour shortages so children are regarded as ‘cheap labourers’; poverty; and lack of intervention. One of the key implications for NAP on child la- bour is for it to be part of the existing NAP-TIP to promote coherence in implementation. Recommendations from the study encompass the need to strengthen nationwide initiatives to eliminate child labor through Prevention (ratification of ILO Protocol, awareness raising on child labor, legal reform and improved enforcement of the law with a clear definition of forced and child labour); Protec- tion (strengthen law enforcement, increase the number of social workers to assist children, increase capacity of officials or enforcement agency to identify child, develop specific SOPs and indicators to assist businesses, parents and community at large to better understand and comply with existing legislation); and Support services (improve services such as temporary shelter, provide easy-to- access grievance and complaint mechanism at community level). The NAP should include measures to prevent child labour to protect young workers and to support individual children who are already trapped in child labour through substantial policy changes.
Ms. Aegile Fernandez from Tenaganita presented on “Children lost under the radar and reality on the ground”. She presented case studies to show who are the children that get lost under the radar— a girl from a poor family who is a victim of child pornography; young boys recruit- ed by pedophiles; refugee children; children in the fishing industry—these children have no education; children in detention centres (are they supposed to be in shelters?); children who are begging such as refugee children who are not allowed to work, so they are made to beg by the syndicates. Even babies are used for begging. Ms. Aegile lamented on what is happening to children in Malaysia and whether people are interested to know or are fearful. There is a need for us to ask questions, to focus on state- less children, to have empathy and engage in meaningful conversations to address these issues. She called on all parties to rethink and relook at what we have in place to protect ALL children—this includes refugee and stateless children.
During the Q&A session, the issue of undocumented chil- dren was raised, where one parent is a Malaysian or in the case of unmarried parents. There was a recommenda- tion to engage with diplomatic missions to allow the par- ents to go back to the country of origin. On the exploita- tion of children and screening mechanism to identify trafficked children, there is currently no screening mecha- nism in place but if they have indicators of trafficking, then they will be identified as trafficked victims. SU- HAKAM recommended that the Government supports the Children on the Move programme and their pilot project on unaccompanied minors.
The Moderator closed the session by reminding the participants that the focus of what we do should be on the children.