PETALING JAYA: Child trafficking is still a serious threat in Malaysia despite the efforts of the government and aid agencies to stem the crime, says a Unicef report.
According to the study titled “Child Trafficking in East and South-East Asia: Reversing the Trend,” Malaysia has developed or amended laws and policies to combat child trafficking but enforcement has generally been weak.
It said this was due, in some part, to insufficient resources, limited capacities, poor coordination, or a lack of leadership.
Unicef regional director Anupama Rao Singh said one of the main problems was the grouping of child vulnerabilities into diverse categories, with separate programmes and approaches to tackle each.
“We have a situation now where there are dozens of child trafficking programmes in the region, but there are also dozens of child labour, sexual exploitation, child violence and neglect, and juvenile justice programmes as well.
“Yet, the core vulnerabilities that put children at risk in these situations should really be addressed together rather than separately,” she said after the report was released at the Pacific Trafficking in Persons Forum, held in Wellington, New Zealand, last week.
Child trafficking is a major concern across South-East Asia due to various factors including internal conflict as well as a demand for child prostitutes, pornography and cheap labour. The countries here are both source and destination centres for child trafficking.
In Malaysia, the persisting issues are the sizable population of refugee and migrant children, and stateless children who are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking due to inadequate protective laws and policies.
“It is time to stop confronting trafficking as a separate issue and address it more systematically along with other child protection issues,” said Anupama.
The study, which assessed child trafficking programmes in seven Asian countries, including Malaysia, showed that a new approach was needed to confront not only child trafficking, but also other related forms of abuse and exploitation.
The other countries were China, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The study noted that a great deal had been accomplished in this region in generating bilateral, multilateral and transnational cooperation, as well as developments in legislative and policy reform.
Unicef said the study concluded that what was required was the development of national child protection systems within countries, similar to the creation of effective health systems decades ago.