One in 10 children in Malaysia is likely to be a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, according to a child rights activist.
James Nayagam of the Suriana Welfare Society said the lockdowns to curb Covid-19 had been imposed at the expense of children’s safety.
“Before this, children could leave the house and be away from their abusers, but now both mother and child are sometimes at their abuser’s mercy,” he said.
“There is no way for them to immediately reach out for help when tension at home is on the rise.”
The women, family and community development ministry reported recently that it recorded 2,040 child abuse cases in the first four months of 2021. Of the total, nearly 30% came under the description of physical and sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, the Negeri Sembilan social welfare department said it saw 142 child abuse cases from January to June, with physical abuse topping the list.
Nayagam told FMT he suspected that the actual figures were higher since many sexual abuse incidences were under-reported.
Among the contributing factors, he said, was the toll on mental health attributable to the pandemic and the economic devastation it had wrought.
He said one of the ways of dealing with the problem would be to train people to be the eyes and ears of their neighbourhoods in assisting in the work of NGOs.
“We must have a stronger support system and look at the wider picture in helping families with the present situation,” he said.
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