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Opinion

Thursday, 12 July 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Tackling a long-standing issue

I REFER to the recent reports on the reaction to the marriage of the 11-year-old girl and the death of the five-month-old child.

First of all, I must remind Malaysians that these cases are not new as I have been dealing with them for the past 30 years in various groups involved with child protection.

One must bear in mind that the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration and basis for any action to resolve these issues.

Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995 to uphold its commitment to the protection and welfare of her children.

Numerous statements have been made in the past by various agencies concerning the country’s commitment to protecting children, and there was even an action plan to this effect.

But the fact that child marriage is still happening may now raise doubt over the effectiveness of these action plans.

In my opinion, we really need to admit the real reasons why the situation persists.

In the matter of underage marriage, we need to examine the dual legal system in our country and decide on what would be the common and acceptable stand on various issues, bearing in mind the best interest of the child.

I have sat through meetings where most of the attendees dared not state any views if religious matters were concerned, and in the end, no decision was made. As such, certain issues concerning children remain unchanged.

The way forward is to have more dialogues on the two legal systems and reach a common understanding.

Where it concerns the daily care of children, the fact remains that over 2,000 childcare centres remain unregistered.

Over the years, various attempts have been made to address this situation, including setting up child crèches at the workplace, but implementation has not been very successful.

Childcare has to be a communal affair.

Affordable centres managed by the authorities, like the state-run childcare centre in Singapore, should be set up in housing estates.

In Singapore, working parents leave their children in these centres which are well equipped and manned by trained staff.

I suggest that the various government agencies, especially the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, take note of the actual situation before issuing media statements to announce their proposals for solving the problems.

JAMES NAYAGAM

Chairman

Suriana Welfare Society Malaysia