KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 — The 15-year-old who recently made headlines in Terengganu for stabbing the baby she birthed requires proper legal and health aid befitting the trauma she underwent, the Children’s Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said today.
Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) was informed that the girl is now under police custody and currently being detained in a police lock-up.
“While the CC is aware that the case is being investigated, detaining a 15-year-old girl who had just given birth is clearly not in the best interest of the child.
“The CC is of the view that the approach taken in dealing with a child who is in conflict with the law should be in line with the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) to which Malaysia is a Party,” she said in a statement.
National news agency Bernama previously reported that the girl was being held on a seven-day remand order at the Kemaman Hospital Maternity Ward that started last Wednesday where she was receiving post-natal treatment even as she was being investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder.
The girl was taken in by police after a health worker found a newborn baby boy with multiple stab wounds in his chest at a house in Felcra Seri Bandi, Chukai in Kemaman on February 8.
Noor Aziah, the Children’s Commissioner, believes that the girl “is definitely suffering from a horrible mental health condition that led her to act in such a way”.
“It is paramount that the girl must first be given proper postpartum treatment including
psychological treatment before taking her through the prosecution process. The Social
Welfare Department (SWD) should ensure that both treatments are given appropriately to the girl.
“The girl should be given the necessary legal aid, in particular, the right to a legal
representative (lawyer) as well as a Social Welfare Officer who would act as her probation officer and protector,” she said, urging the SWD to arrange legal aid for the girl at no cost.
She added that children in conflict with the law must be treated in accordance with the provisions under the Child Act 2001 (Act 611) and the CRC.
“By virtue of Section 83A of Act 611, a child being arrested should not be handcuffed, and the parents or guardian must be informed of the child’s whereabouts.
“Under the same Act and the CRC, the child’s identity should be protected and not be disclosed. Furthermore, the child’s right to consult a counsel of his or her choice should be fulfilled. In addition, children in detention should not be placed with an adult who has been charged with an offence,” she said.
The Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Women, Children and Social Development made similar recommendations on how to deal with children in conflict with the law on February 12.
Noor Aziah expressed concern that the deputy minister of Women, Family and Community Development had made a statement on social media, which claimed that the girl did not suffer from any mental health condition.
Though noting that the statement has since been removed, Noor Aziah said a comprehensive psychological assessment on the mental health of the girl should be conducted before such a statement was issued.
She stressed that the girl is a rape victim regardless whether consent was given or not as Section 375 of the Penal Code describes all sexual acts involving minors as statutory rape.
“The CC emphasises that the principle of the best interest of the child, as envisioned in Article 3 of the CRC, should be applied in all criminal cases involving children,” she said.
Noor Aziah urged the government to implement an effective programme that provides emotional support to all pregnant teenagers or girls in a safe environment, and make such services known publicly.
“This incident has again highlighted the importance of a comprehensive syllabus of sex, sexuality, and reproductive education which must be developed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) with cooperation and collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD),” she said.
She added this syllabus should be taught to all children in all government and private schools and efforts to ramp up awareness should be made through various platforms, including social media.