The nation griefs again, short after deaths of babies and infants within 56 into the new year, this time after a 46 day old baby girl died at the monstrosity of her step father after being sexually violated, bones broken, being bitten losing consciousness and finally succumbing to her injuries.

This is the third known case this year, of a baby, of a child who died after being mercilessly and savagely abused at the hands of their providers and protectors.

The father is now charged for murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code after being previously investigated under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001 which reads “abuses, neglects, abandons or exposes the child in a manner likely to cause him physical or emotional injury or causes or permits him to be so abused, neglected, abandoned or exposed”. Anyone who commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both. This provision covers offences in relation to the health and welfare of children. This is the second case this year of a parent being charged with murder after abusing their child to the point of death. Did the murder charge on the army sergeant in Port Dickson who battered his 9 year old daughter to death on the 1st of February serve as a deterrent for the step father who committed equally the same sickening vile act in Kampung Tok Panjang, Bukit Tengah, 14 days after? It doesn’t appear so.

While the punishment for murder carries the mandatory death sentence, will the heaviest of punishment prevent other babies and children to fall victim to abusive parents or caretakers? Ask any person out there and the answer will be gloomy and pessimistic resounding NO.

The despicable vile act of torture and torment on baby Nurul Ain Umairah is not the first case and will not be the last until serious measures are taken to prevent incidences like this from happening again, or at least to reduce the significantly the numbers.

On this note, I speak for all Malaysians in reminding the Government that in January 2015 Minister for Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Rohani pledged that a new comprehensive law be introduced to integrate all stakeholders with amongst the objectives, to prevent abuses from happening in the first place. She mentioned that as the Child Act 2001 needed 70 percent amendments, the Ministry might as well draw up a new act altogether.

While the intention to come up with a new act with heavier penalties may serve as a deterrent to future abusers, the crux of the matter, the bottom line is that the act of abuse must be prevented at all cost – by the Government, ministries, the enforcement authorities and society at large.

The Government must start addressing the matter from ‘bottom-up’, by creating awareness on the ground to parents and their families, society, religious leaders, schools, and work their way up, roping in enforcement agencies offering information on protection for whistleblowers so that communities can be empowered with knowledge and gain courage to step forward without fear to report suspected abuses, as neighbours and family members, which will drastically reduce and prevent abuses from happening.

Heavier punishments may not necessarily nip the issue in the bud. If a death sentence cannot prevent child abuse, what else can?

The key lies in preventing child abuses from happening in the first place, and I stand with Malaysians alike to challenge the Government to take seriously this cancerous issue that keeps happening as if there are no laws to punish abusers. I urge the Government to hold a roundtable discussions with Members of Parliament from both BN and the Opposition in the coming Parliamentary sitting together with the Attorney General Chambers, members of the civil society, religious leaders, enforcement agencies and academicians to formulate policies on preventing child abuses from happening, once and for all.

Kasthuri Patto

Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
Publicity Secretary of Wanita DAP