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Status of Children in Malaysia – Launch of the 2013 Report

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Q & A Session

Q & A Session

On December 10 Child Rights Coalition Malaysia (CRCM) marked its first anniversary with the launch of report that is the 2013 update of the Status of Children in Malaysia.

The report acknowledges some milestones and steps taken by the government in furthering children’s rights.  One of the highlights of the report is a 2013 chronology of the violation of children’s rights monitored through the news media.

Some of the highlights of the report shared by CRCM were as follows:

“Child Marriage

There have been numerous child marriages reported throughout the years. It is a form of discrimination that disproportionately affects girls and highlights a serious protection issue for Muslim girls. On top of that, child marriages are linked to complex developmental issues such as a child’s reproductive health, access to education, and gender equality. Data on the incidences of child marriage has been difficult to obtain due to under-reporting, in particular due to unregistered/unofficial customary marriages. Nevertheless, there are encouraging signs that the legal age of marriage for all children will be amended to age 18.

Immigration Crackdown on Irregular Migrants

The immigration crackdown announced this year was also reported in the media to have detained children in their operations but their exact numbers are unknown. Cases of children who have been separated from their parents during immigration raids have also been documented. As a result, some of them remain behind living in streets after their parents have been deported.

Article 2 of the CRC encapsulates the principle of non-discrimination which signifies that all children are entitled to the rights laid out in the Convention. The Malaysian Immigration Act 1959/1963 does not differentiate between asylum-seekers, refugees, irregular migrants and undocumented/stateless persons, deeming these groups to be “illegal immigrants” and thus, vulnerable to get arrested for immigration offences. The Malaysian Government is also not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Optional Protocol, nor has the Government ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. This leaves the children exposed to abuse, exploitations and other human rights violations.

Children with Special needs

Children with special needs still face significant challenges in the education aspect in terms of accessibility, inclusiveness in mainstream education, and having the lack of trained personnel in special education. Nonetheless, the MEB 2013-2025 have made provisions to improving education for children with special needs and the Coalition will continue monitoring this.

The Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025

The Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) was launched on the 6th of September 2013 as a roadmap to the country’s education system with the intent to push Malaysia from the bottom-third to the top-third of countries in international education assessment programmes. To do so, the MEB will provide better facilities and equipment to schools of indigenous and other minorities in the rural areas. Despite the efforts, there are three major criticisms to the MEB programmes. Firstly, the MEB does not offer education in mother tongue languages; indigenous communities are lacking language and literature materials for their learning. Secondly, the MEB does not address internal school issues such as child abuse, discrimination and bullying. Lastly, the MEB does not specifically address the issue of education among stateless, refugee and asylum-seeking children.

Customary Rights and Indigenous Children

The Malaysian government has been appropriating customary lands and forcing the resettlement of Orang Asli communities. For this purpose, sections 6(3) and 7(3) of the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 delegate power to the local state Authorities to revoke Orang Asli lands without prior consultation. Although plans for resettlement of indigenous communities might be well-intentioned, abandonment of the traditional lifestyle can have unintended consequences which may not be in the best interests of indigenous children.

Cultural Rights and Indigenous Children

The Malaysian government in 2007 adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous (UNDRIP). Section 43 of the Declaration states that there must be “minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world”. However, concerns exist over the ability of indigenous children to exercise their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Children from indigenous communities have reported “extreme pressure” to convert to Islam. Example of this includes babies given Muslim names by birth registration officers and children being punished to bring pork to schools.

Child Participation

One of the aims of Child Rights Coalition Malaysia is to promote children’s participation in advocating for child rights. We believe that children have a right to express their own viewpoints. So far, Malaysian children have participated in three major events: “End the Immigration Detention of Children”, “Be the Change. Speak up!” Children for Child protection Forum and Carnival”, and “Looking Towards the Future: Dialogue with Youth“. In these events, children were able to share with us their views on different issues affecting them, helping us to shape the process and outcome of our research on children’s rights in Malaysia, which in return will help influence child-related policies in the country.

Although governments are ultimately accountable for complying with the CRC, we all have the responsibility to respect and safeguard the rights of children.  Recognizing this, the Coalition also makes constructive recommendations not just for the Malaysian government, but also for NGOs, the private business sector and the general public.”

The full 2013 report can be accessed here and if you haven’t seen it the 2012 report can be accessed here.

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