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Malaysia: Proposal to Reform Laws on Sexual Offenses

(June 16, 2016) Malaysia’s Home Ministry is contemplating revising the country’s laws applicable to sex offenders. Both reform of existing legislation and the adoption of a new statute are being considered. While under current law survivors of sexual attacks must be present in court to face the accused perpetrators, the Deputy Home Minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, has said that this may be changed. He noted that in Malaysian society, victims of sexual offenses meet with greater stigma than the criminals do, making it difficult for them to undergo the experience of testifying publicly in court. (Yee Xiang Yun, Malaysia to Reform Sex Offender Laws, JAKARTA POST (June 13, 2016).)

In addition, the Deputy Minister pointed out that the current Penal Code provisions on sex offenders need to be restated and updated to cover contemporary society and the role of the Internet. He said “[s]uch improvements to our laws will mean that our justice system can convict sex offenders based on evidence gathered through various methods … .” (Id.; Penal Code as at 1 January 2015, Act 574, LAWS OF MALAYSIA, Attorney General’s Chambers of Malaysia website.) The revisions will first be discussed within the Home Ministry and will be broad in nature, considering offenders who attack children and also those who attack adults. (Yee Xiang Yun, supra.)

Background

The recent, well-known case of British pedophile Richard Huckle, who assaulted children in Malaysia, provided some of the push behind the move to revise sex offender laws. He had been volunteering in the country and was convicted of 71 counts of child abuse after returning to Great Britain. (Id.; Angela Dewan, British Pedophile Richard Huckle Gets 22 Life Sentences, CNN (June 7, 2016).)

The Deputy Minister noted that Internet-based evidence was used to convict Huckle and added that Britain had introduced new legislation on sexual crimes in 2013. (Yee Xiang Yun, supra.)

Last month, Indonesia, a neighbor of Malaysia, issued a regulation focused specifically on sexual violence against children. It included harsher possible punishments for those convicted of those attacks, such as prison sentences of up to 20 years and in some cases chemical castration. Indonesia is also considering a broader law on sexual violence that would cover cases with adult as well as cases with child victims. (Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Regulation on Sexual Violence Against Children Issued, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 27, 2016).)