Category Archives: Press

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Press: Help fight menace, parents urged

Category : Press

PETALING JAYA: Legislation needs to go hand-in-hand with parental responsibility, say NGOs and welfare organisations in response to R.AGE’s documentary highlighting the sexual exploitation of children online.

The documentary, Predator In My Phone, was launched yesterday and is part of a campaign pushing for anti-grooming laws to combat cyber abuse.

“Children are now vulnerable online as well as offline,” said Unicef representative to Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh.

“Parents play a prominent role in cultivating a safe environment for their children.”

However, stern disciplinary action like confiscating mobile phones or disconnecting the Internet wouldn’t work, said Abby Latif, programme director of Women:girls.

“Instead, it is critical that parents and guardians keep the lines of communication open. Most grooming processes target the breakdown of the parent-child relationship. It happens in different ways at different stages of age so this is not a one-time conversation for parents and child,” she said.

“Trust-building happens over time and not overnight,” she added. “Removing a child’s online freedom – a one-time act of discipline – may destroy parent-child trust. Parents should instead invest care and time consistently.”

Groomers often manipulate children into keeping their relationship a secret, said Women’s Centre for Change programme consultant Prema Devaraj.

There are, however, a few key giveaways that a child might be undergoing grooming, besides sudden secretiveness.

“In some instances, a child may have an older ‘friend’ or meet a ‘friend’ in an unusual place. Gifts, like a new phone or bracelet, which she is reluctant to explain, are also red flags.

“In some children, there could be unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour or knowledge for their age,” she said.

But child sexual abuse or exploitation can also affect a child’s physical and mental health.

Clark-Hattingh said it would impair their ability to learn and socialise, and impact their transition to adulthood.

“To combat this, parents need to open the lines of communication with their children.”

Currently, the Malaysian Penal Code Section 377E addresses child grooming – described as inciting a child under 14 to any act of gross indecency – but it leaves children above 14 vulnerable.

However, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar announced yesterday that the police force was in favour of laws against child grooming.

To address issues related to cyber safety and to advocate for the protection of children online, Unicef, in partnership with R.AGE, DiGi and Women:girls will be hosting a town hall where youth advocates can have a discussion regarding digital safety issues with policymakers.

The public can also pledge their support towards anti-grooming laws at

The Unicef townhall will be held on June 25 at Makespace, Quill City Mall, Kuala Lumpur. For more information, log on to

Source: The Star Online

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R.AGE calls for the need for Anti-Grooming Laws

Category : Press , Updates

R.AGE and Unicef is calling for laws that would make it a crime for an adult to intentionally engage a child online with the aim of sexually exploiting them – even when no physical meeting or abuse has taken place.

We hope such laws will deter paedophiles and sex predators, and enable the police to take action against offenders early on in the grooming process.

YOU can be part of this solution, by pledging your support to the campaign below, and liking the Predator In My Phone Facebook page. More info:


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Press: Time to zero in on groomers

Category : Press

THE existence of our very own paedophiles online as reported in local media sent shivers down the spines of people, especially parents in this country.

While British paedophile Richard Huckle is now behind bars in the UK, local child protection NGOs and the media have revealed disturbing realities – there are local paedophiles walking free among us – and it is not easy to spot them.

Paedophiles – people who are sexually attracted to children – are deceptive and very manipulative when they use child grooming for sexual exploitation of children.

Child sexual grooming involves a paedophile who befriends and establishes an emotional connection with a child and sometimes the family, with the intention to sexually abuse the child.

This could also happen over the Internet, with the paedophile arranging to meet the child in person or the “online friendship” turning into pornography or sex trafficking.

Paedophiles may appear to be normal and can be someone we least suspect. The proliferation of technologies such as the Internet and mobile gadgets has made it possible for paedophiles, irrespective of geographical locations, to access children wherever they are, including at home.

Today’s children are Internet-savvy but these children are not old or mature enough to rationalise, assess or filter what is right or wrong over the Internet.

As children can be easily manipulated, it is imperative for us – parents, society, enforcement authorities, the media and the NGOs – to protect them against sexual predators. Since 2010, police have received over 400 reports of Inter­net-related rape cases, of which 339 involved minors. Sadly, these are only the tip of the iceberg.

There is no doubt that Malaysia needs to introduce anti-grooming laws. Malaysian society, enraged by the latest revelations from NGOs and the media about local and foreign paedophiles’ heinous crimes, is calling for laws against sexual grooming of children.

Malaysians are also urging the authorities to establish a registry of sex offenders, which should be made separate from a registry of criminal offenders.

The new law, which should clearly define all sexual crimes including intended sexual abuse, would empower our law enforcement agencies to detect and nab the perpetrators before the actual sexual exploitation occurs.

In coming out with the anti-grooming law, relevant authorities and agencies such as the police, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry should get feedback from various child protection NGOs.

We should also learn from other countries’ experience in introducing effective laws to deal with child grooming. Child sexual grooming has been criminalised in countries like Singapore, Australia, Canada and Britain.

Our police personnel should be well-trained to spot possible child groomers, especially those behind the computer keyboards.

The police should also be trained to get the evidence out of children, who are mostly traumatised by the sexual abuse, to ensure prima facie cases against the accused.

Our judges, lawyers and prosecutors should also be sensitive to child abuse cases.

Besides legislation, suitable sex education should be introduced to pre-school and primary school pupils. They should be taught how to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable conduct of adults, recognise inappropriate touching and what to do if they are approached sexually or have been sexually abused.

Public awareness campaigns are also necessary to educate all Malaysians about child sexual abuse, pornography and the paedophiles.

Some people in our society prefer to keep child sexual abuse under wraps for fear of social stigma, especially if the abusers are family members. Some still dismiss a person’s obsession with videos and photographs of child pornography as a small matter.

This has to stop. The negative impact of child sexual abuse may last until adulthood.

Survivors of child sexual abuse should receive appropriate counselling. Convicted paedophiles must undergo therapy, treatment and medication as paedophilia is a type of psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older teenager experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

Treating paedophiles may still be a new area in Malaysia but in countries like Germany, the UK and the US, various therapies, treatments and medications have been and are being developed. We have to prevent convicted paedophiles relapsing into their criminal behaviour.

According to a survey, CyberSAFE 2015, more than 90 per cent of schoolchildren in Malaysia use the Internet, and 83 per cent are susceptible to online dangers due to poor supervision.

The survey found that some respondents had sent intimate photos or videos to someone on the Internet, others had been asked to upload intimate photos or videos of themselves on the Inter­net and some respondents accessed pornography on the Internet.

This is the time to act. We cannot let the matter rest, there are paedophiles walking among us and a child is being groomed somewhere in the country or over the internet even as we speak.


Senior Vice Chairman, Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation

Source: The Star Online

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Press: Why still no amendment to definition of rape — PKR Women

Category : Press

KUCHING: The Ministry of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing’s winding-up speech falls short of updating the public on the status of the admendment to the definition of rape.

National PKR women vice chief Voon Shiak Ni said the public outcry and call for the admendment of the definition of ‘Rape’ was made following the acquittal by the Court of Appeal of a 60-year-old man in Sibu from four charges of rape of a 14-year-old girl last year.

Voon told a press conference yesterday that the appellant, Bunya Jalong, told the court there was no penile penetration,

and that the minor became pregnant because he inserted his semen-smeared fingers into her and the court acquitted Jalong based on the present legal definition of sexual intercourse, which included only penile penetration.

“This bizzare case has come to the attention of the Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah and also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Sukri.

“Both state and federal ministers have supported the call for the admendment, saying the admendment must be done as soon as possible believing that the amendment could be passed and gazetted last year,” she said.

According to Voon, the Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) also said there must be no slowdown in the amendment process, and called for a timeline to be published.

Other rights groups are also urging the government to amend the penal code’s definition of

rape by the end of last year. There was also a nation-wide protest on the circumvention of the penal code.

“A year has passed but there is still no update on the status of the admendment. The issue was not even mentioned in the State Legislative Assembly .

“We hope our state ministry can put pressure on the federal ministry to get this important admendment done soon. Sexual crimes till today do not see any decrease and we do not want those rapists to be roam free on the streets again because of the inadequacy of our laws,” she said.

Most rape cases in Malaysia involved victims below 16 years old and the nature of rape was becoming more violent and brutal these days, she said, adding there were on average of about 3,000 rape cases reported every year or the equivalent of one woman being raped every 35 minutes.

“We wish to make a serious demand on our state ministry to pressure for an admendment and not to let the delay be another regret for another rape victim.

“We also wish to call for more people to speak out against rape to generate more awareness on it in society,” she said.

Source: The Borneo Post Online

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SWWS: Prioritise protecting children from sexual abuse

Category : Press


Malaysians are shocked by the prolific abuse of children in Malaysia by Richard Huckle and ask why he was not detected sooner. In the Sarawak Women for Women Society’s (SWWS) view, part of the answer is that despite child sexual abuse regularly hitting the headlines, it is given low priority and consequently awareness is lacking.

“What is needed is for every school in the State to run classes for children on what touches are inappropriate and where to go for help” said Margaret Bedus, SWWS’s president. “This has been raised time and time again but people shy away from it. The result is children do not know what to do and so the sexual abuse continues”.

To protect children attitudes need to change. Parents, teachers and youth workers need to talk to children about these issues; be alert to changes in children’s behaviour and take seriously any comments from children about inappropriate behaviour. Priority has to be to help the child and not to protect the accused or the image of the agency.

People running programmes for children and youth need to realise abusers may be amongst those applying to work or volunteer. They therefore need to have standard child protection policies in place and not assume they can spot an abuser from his appearance or attitude. Huckle presented himself as a helpful person wanting to assist poor children in their Sunday school – he groomed both the adults and children to trust him.

SWWS in its recently launched manifesto Women Calling for Change, addressed the issue of child sexual abuse and made the following recommendations:-

Run programmes on Child Safety and Reproductive Health in schools and also in the community so school drop-outs are reached.

  • Increase awareness of abuse of children through the internet and have easy online reporting mechanisms for children.
  • Move from the current ‘Touch and Go’ situation to more systematic, long-term support for survivors of abuse.
  • Increase the capacity and skill of key agencies – this requires more resources and more training.
  • Child protection officers employed by the Welfare Department to be professionally qualified social workers as envisioned in the Child Act currently being amended and the proposed Social Work Act.
  • Extend the work of the inter-agency teams dealing with abuse (SCAN) so they cover more of the State and also provide an effective review system.
  • Amend the definition of rape in the Penal Code so ‘finger rape’ is included.

SWWS strongly believes these measures will strengthen Sarawak’s ability to respond to the serious problem of child sexual abuse – as long as they are given priority and speedily implemented.

“We need to move quickly.” said Margaret. “ It is over a year ago since SWWS raised the issue of the finger rape but there is still no date for the necessary amendments. That’s why we are saying the key issue is for everyone to give this issue priority – we know what needs to be done. If we don’t do it then we are making it easier for the abusers.”

Children who have been abused can phone JKMs’ 24 hour free Child Helpline on 15999. SWWS’s Crisis Phone Line – 082 422660 (operates 7-9pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday; 9-11am Wednesday & Thursday and 2-4 Tuesday). SWWS runs child safety training programmes – interested parties can call or email


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Better coordination among centres, NGOs, shelters urged

Category : Press


KUCHING: The State Women and Family Council wants better coordination between the One-Stop Crisis Centres, non-governmental organisations such as Sarawak Women for Women Society and the gazetted shelters or safe houses for victims of domestic violence or rape.

“We need to look into better coordination, better traffic flow and working relationship that would benefit women,” said Minister of Women, Welfare and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah.

Speaking to reporters after the council meeting yesterday, Fatimah said the One-Stop Crisis Centre was available in all major hospitals in the state, and was designed to be a place where women in crisis could go for help.

“The medical examination and counselling can be done here away from the usual channels, and police will come over to take the report.

“One of the recommendations is to make more people aware that we have safe houses for women who need shelter due to domestic violence,” she said.

There are four of these shelters in Sarawak – Rumah Seri Kenangan Kuching (Samarahan Rehabilitation Centre), Rumah Seri Kenangan Sibu, Sekolah Tunas Bakti Miri and Rumah Kanak-Kanak Datuk Ajibah Abol in Sri Aman.

According to the police, there were 225 domestic violence cases in 2014 and 192 in 2015.

Statutory rape is also a cause for concern, making up 116 out of 143 cases in 2014, and 113 cases out of 149 in 2015.

In 2014, there were 64 cases of molestation (without penetration), and 61 cases the following year.

Sexual harassment stood at seven in 2014 and 11 in 2015.

There were two maid abuse cases in 2014 and one sodomy case in 2015.

Source: The Borneo Post Online

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SWWS: Freeing women from abuse

Category : Press

Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) dreams of the day when women and girls are free from abuse in all its forms. Although there has been progress since the passing of the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Act there is still a long way to go.

At its recent forum ‘Abuse: Old Issues – New Contexts’, both the progress and the gaps were clear, according to SWWS’s president Margaret Bedus. “We are delighted that after so many years of asking there is to be a shelter for abused women and look forward to working with the government on this.”

“However, this is just one step towards resolving the problems,” she added. “Now the next challenge is to overcome the ‘Touch & Go’ responses so common across services. To do this we look for (i) more resources to provide effective, integrated services (2) a change in attitude and (3) supporting abused women and children to be given a higher priority by society.”

At the forum Associate Professor Dr Zabidah Putit, from the Faculty of Health and Medical Science, Unimas, shared graphic accounts of the terrible abuse women from all walks of life have experienced. “Reports of Domestic Violence within Sarawak are increasing,” she said, “which shows there is more awareness as the real number of incidences will be much higher than the reported rate”.

One of her major concerns was that often when women reported, they did not receive the help they needed. So they had to keep repeatedly reporting and waiting for effective action – an experience which was echoed by participants at the forum. In some highly publicised cases the women had died.

Zabidah therefore welcomed the recent announcement that a shelter, that she was passionate about, was on the way but, like Margaret, called for more collaborative action and wider awareness.

She also stated the need to end patriarchal attitudes which still expected women to be subordinate to men, adding that such unacceptable attitudes created an environment which tolerated violence and were not respectful of women and were not following the true teaching found in the Quran.

On the part of the police there has been progress compared to when the DV Act was first introduced. DSP Jennifer Atok , from PDRM Headquarters, shared with the audience the systems of reporting – which, now they are online in many stations is faster – and other new developments, especially in the area of handling reports of child sexual abuse.

There is now a special victim centre in Kuching were evidence can be video-taped sparing the child additional stress in court and the police have employed their first psychologist in the centre to assist the survivor and her family.

Another advance was the new ICACCOPS system. This, as explained by her colleague, ASP Nur Ilyana, meant the police can now track who is downloading child pornography and where they are located. With the increase in cybercrime the police are working with forces in other countries to find ways of tracking paedophiles and warning the public of crimes and other harmful behaviour online.

Preventing cyber-crime

Participants were also impressed with the new video in Bahasa Malaysia on Cyber Bullying and the campaign the police are running called ‘Think Twice – Stop: Think: Connect’ designed to help prevent cyber-crime.

The cyber-dimension in crime was also highlighted by panelist Gill Raja, a lecturer in Social Work at Unimas and active SWWS member. She particularly appealed for more understanding for the survivors of romance scams who were left betrayed, blamed and financially broke.

She called for faster and more caring responses from the authorities so the chance of catching these well-organised criminal networks was increased and more support was given to those making the reports.

“Although cyber-crime is new, the way people are hooked is the old ‘grooming’ method seen in child abuse where the abuser gains trust by being very pleasant”, she said, adding “and the way society reacts is the same negative blaming response we have seen towards women who have survived rape. Instead the focus needs to be on catching the criminal and supporting the survivor.”

In contrast, she highlighted how in the ‘finger rape’ case in Sarawak the public were so outraged by the Appeal Courts decision that the attention given to the case led to a promise to amend the Penal Code swiftly. The details of that amendment are eagerly anticipated and there will be disappointment if it drags into next year.

The range of exploitation and sexual abuse was vast ranging from the documented problems for the Penan community in the Baram to the issues of human trafficking and child sexual abuse.

To tackle such issues comprehensively SWWS uges more systematic collaboration between agencies at the local level and more training of all parties including the key child protection officers in the Police and Welfare Department (JKM).

It was pointed out that the planned Social Work Act was aimed to address this within JKM by ensuring only qualified people were appointed to undertake the complex task of running child protection services run by the government, but unfortunately its aim was misunderstood.

To avoid the ‘touch and go’ approach currently evident, SWWS urges more systematic intervention which recognises the complexity in each occurrence of abuse and has the capacity to provide sustained help and reach all parts of the state. This will require more resources and more support from the public. Everyone can assist by reaching out to abused people, giving them support and putting them in touch with agencies who can help. Abuse needs to be stopped.

SWWS in due course will be raising a range of recommendations arising from our Women Calling for Change series of forums. Women who missed the last forum on Abuse: Old Issues New Contexts but wish to share experience and ideas on the topic can contact SWWS by email or phoning our drop-in centre on 082 416053.

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SWWS: What can be done about rocky relationships?

Category : Press


Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) recently held a forum entitled ‘When Relationships Go Sour’ to highlight common problems and consider what changes are needed.

Avoid marrying too young, stay in school

A very glaring problem in the state was the high number of early marriages as these unions often led to early divorce.

Dr Farah Nini, a law lecturer from Universiti Malaya who has researched child marriage, shared that Sarawak has amongst the highest number of child marriages in the country.

This, she believed, was connected to the high school drop-out rate leading to young teens, often bored, drifting into marriage. Their parents may have married young too so the pattern was repeated across the generations. To break the cycle more had to be done to keep children in school. She was particularly worried about how young some of the mothers were. There had even been incidents of girls under 14 giving birth.

Datu Nillie Tangai, from Majlis Adat Istiadat, agreed, adding that after separation the grandparents were often left looking after the babies born to the teenage mothers. He also noted that it was rare for the penghulus or the district officers to query such early marriages during the registration process despite increased concern in the state.

Educate youngsters to prevent pregnancies

As one teacher in the audience shared, the reluctance of officials to refuse permission for early marriages was often as the young teenage girl was already pregnant and the parents were keen for her to marry to avoid embarrassment to the family.

She agreed with the view of SWWS, expressed earlier by the moderator Ann Teo, that discussing relationships and reproductive health in an age-appropriate way was needed in both primary and secondary schools so unplanned pregnancies could be reduced.

However, she lamented that the parents and not the teachers were the ones blocking this. Many were in denial about how much today’s youngster knew and how early they were becoming sexually active. She urged that the public be educated so young people could be given the information they need.

Another member of the audience suggested social media was used to educate youngsters. Videos could be made showing the consequences of early pregnancy. Given the difficulty of taking training courses to young people, especially those who had already dropped out of school, this method could reach more teens.


For those in a relationship, Margaret Bedus, SWWS’s president, stressed the importance of effective communication. Often people go into a marriage she said with different expectations. They need to talk these through and come to an agreement that suits both parties.

Society should also challenge negative expectations such as wives should just put up with men having affairs. Women facing problems in their relationships needed a safe place to talk through their options without anyone judging them or telling them what to do. SWWS’s phone line was such a safe place.

She also pointed out that it was not just affairs that could cause tension between couples. Handling in-laws: adjusting to parenting and balancing work and family life were common factors which could create a gap between couples unless there was good communication and time given to each other’s needs. For those who faced violence in their relationships she encouraged them to reach out for help.

Laws need to be just, accessible and enforced

Datu Nillie Tangai raised the difficulty women had in obtaining maintenance from their ex-husbands. Tracing the husband was one problem but once in court he might agree to pay but after a couple of payments defaulting was common. For her to chase him through the courts was expensive, especially for rural woman. Also if he was caught and refused to pay she would be legally obliged to pay for his imprisonment as it was a civil not a criminal case.

In situations where one partner converted after marrying under Adat, the stand of the Majlis was all matters relating to maintenance; child custody and division of assets needed to be settled under the law by which they were married.

This was welcomed by Dr Farah, who supported the stand of the menteri besar of Negri Sembilan who had stated that Muslim converts should go back to the court under which they were married to settle their divorce and related matters. More such bold statements were needed she said, as Islam is a religion of justice and peace so the spirit of the law should be followed.

Many civil laws, she noted, were good but the enforcement was lacking. She cited the Domestic Violence Act, which includes sexual abuse, and its recent amendments, which has extended coverage to emotional abuse. However, the enforcement was weak as within the law enforcement agencies there was still an attitude that it was a private not a public matter. This needed to be changed so protection could be a reality as envisioned when the Act was passed

With regard to maintenance and child custody, she felt civil courts could learn from the Syariah court which has a separate department called ‘Khidmat Sokongan Keluarga’ to check on the enforcement of rulings. As for disputes over the custody of children and enabling more amicable arrangements the family courts were a good new development but these had yet to reach Sarawak but could be proposed in places which had a High Court.

In the Sarawak context, the civil courts are difficult to access for rural communities due to the cost and time to reach them. Traditionally, district officers in Sarawak have helped to resolve disputes but current officers, according to Datu Nillie, complained they are not trained and do not have the time to undertake these duties adequately.

Instead some have advised people to seek the help of the Legal Aid Bureau to enforce court orders but as these services are only based in major urban areas this is not a realistic option.

SWWS’s stance

SWWS urges the government to ensure the rural people are well served so they are not disadvantaged compared to their urban counterparts when it comes to enforcing court orders pertaining to divorce. This would require a review of the DO’s role and the resources, including training, to undertake it plus exploring other means of dispensing justice.

SWWS also urges the urgent extension of the Married Women and Children (Enforcement of Maintenance) Act 1968 (revised 1988) to Sarawak and hopes that the Majlis Agama Islam will consider favourably the recent proposal that before a marriage can be registered in the Syariah court all matters related to a previous marriage needs to be resolved.

“Whether focusing on prevention; reconciliation or fair dissolution of marriages, there is much work to be done” Margaret said after the forum, adding “To reach across the state there needs to be concerted teamwork between government departments, community leaders and NGOs. Resources will be needed but they will be a good investment. Special attention needs to be given to how to prevent teenage marriage.

“It is SWWS’s view this has to start when they are in school and we also need to address the issue of school drop-outs so this troubling problem is reduced.”

Members of the public with further ideas are welcome to contact SWWS at before they publish the recommendations arising from the Women Calling for Change Series of Forums. Women who wish to confidentially discuss relationship problems can phone the crisis phone line on 082 422660 during its operating hours.


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SWWS gets Suhakam award for defending rights

Category : Press , Updates


KUCHING: The Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS) has become the first recipient from the state to win an award from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

SWWS received the award in the organisation category for its work in promoting and defending the rights of women and children in Sarawak, especially those who have been victims of violence and abuse.

It was one of eight winners in the Suhakam Human Rights Awards 2014, which were given out in Kuala Lumpur last month.

“We would like to express our appreciation to Suhakam for the award. It was a pleasant surprise to all of us,” SWWS president Margaret Bedus said during a courtesy call on Suhakam commis- sioner Francis Johen here yes- terday.

She said the award gave particular recognition to the society’s Empowering Rural Girls programme which was carried out from June 2009 to October 2010 in Baram in response to media reports of sexual abuse of Penan women in the area.

The programme aimed to equip rural women and girls with knowledge and skills on how to limit and handle sexually exploitative situations and develop a support network in order to lessen the risk of exploitation.

In addition, SWWS provides other services such as a drop-in centre, one-stop crisis centre, women’s crisis phoneline and keep safe kit project.

It also conducts public awareness programmes on sexual violence, sexual harassment, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, legal literacy for women, basic counselling, personal safety for schoolchildren and human trafficking.

Francis said the awards were introduced by Suhakam in 2011 to recognise individuals, organisations, media, government agencies and business entitites who have an excellent record in promoting human rights in Malaysia.

“It is one of the ways in which Suhakam promotes awareness of human rights. We want to get others involved in promoting human rights and incorporate it in their operations,” he said.

He added that Suhakam received 32 submissions for the awards this year.

“We hope more organisations from Sarawak will participate in the awards in the future,” he said.

Source: The Star Online