Release of Child Rights Coalition Malaysia Annual Status Report on Children’s Rights in Malaysia
PETALING JAYA, December 10 – The Child Rights Coalition Malaysia (the 'Coalition') released its inaugural report today on the status of children's rights in Malaysia.
This report summarizes the key findings of a 2010-2012 research project conducted by the Coalition on the current status of children in Malaysia, using the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the 'CRC') as a benchmark for analysis. The Coalition report is the first children's rights report of this scale and depth by civil society in Malaysia.
The key areas covered by the report are birth registration; freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly; family support and alternative care; violence, abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation; health; education; children with disabilities; refugee, asylum-seeking and irregular migrant children; stateless children; children living in poverty; indigenous children; street children; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ) children; and children in conflict with the law.
One key issue identified in the report is a lack of access to birth registration for certain groups of marginalized and disadvantaged children. These children include children from the urban and rural poor, indigenous communities, street children, abandoned children, and children of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrant workers.
This is deeply concerning as birth registration is a critical first step in ensuring a child's rights throughout life. This is because birth registration and a birth certificate provide legal proof of the identity of the child, and unregistered children face difficulties in accessing their rights, including the right to a nationality, education and healthcare, and to be free from all forms of exploitation. When children who have no birth certificates grow up, their rights to vote, own property, open a bank account, and to effectively participate in society can be severely compromised. There is also a clear link between birth registration and statelessness.
A 2009 study by Malaysia's Education Ministry revealed that almost 44,000 school-age children had never attended school. Of these, more than 5,000 were Malaysian citizens, mostly Orang Asli and Penan children as well as orphans and children living in economic hardship. The government announced in May 2009 that Malaysian children without birth certificates can attend government-run schools if they can obtain confirmation from the Department of Social Welfare (JKM) or their village headmen that they were born in Malaysia. However, awareness of this policy among parents and teachers is generally believed to be low.
Article 7 of the CRC states that, "The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name [and] the right to acquire a nationality". The Coalition calls on the government to implement a free-of-charge birth registration system at all stages that covers all territories in Malaysia. Also, all children, regardless of legal status must be able to access birth registration. All children, whether or not they have a birth certificate, should also be able to go to school, access healthcare and child protection services.
The Coalition also highlighted that although children's rights have progressed since Malaysia ratified the CRC in 1995; the implementation of government policy on children's rights has remained weak. The Coalition commends the government for withdrawing some of its initial reservations to the CRC, which are Article 1 (defining the age of a child); Article 13 (regarding freedom of expression); and Article 15 (regarding freedom of assembly and participation).
However, the Coalition urges the government to lift the remaining reservations to the CRC, which are Article 2 (regarding non-discrimination); Article 7 (regarding birth registration, the right to a name and nationality); Article 14 (regarding freedom of thought, conscience and religion); Article 28(1)(a) (regarding compulsory and free primary education for all); and Article 37 (regarding torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of liberty).
Although governments are ultimately accountable for complying with the CRC, we all have the responsibility to respect and safeguard the rights of children. Recognizing this, the Coalition also makes constructive recommendations not just for the Malaysian government, but also for NGOs, the private business sector and the general public.
The release of the report also marks the launch of the Child Rights Coalition that comprises child rights groups, including Malaysian Child Resource Institute, Childline Malaysia, Malaysian Care, the National Early Childhood Intervention Council, Protect and Save the Children, Voice of the Children, and Yayasan Chow Kit.
Child Rights Coalition Members:
Childline Malaysia – Childline Malaysia is a non-profit project of the Malaysian Children TV Programme Foundation. In November 2010, Childline Malaysia established the 24 hour national helpline for Malaysia known as '15999 Childline'.
MCRI – Malaysian Child Resource Institute promotes the healthy development of children by raising awareness on the Rights of the Child and advocating for better standards in the provision of early childhood care and education. We also provide research to inform and influence policy.
National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC) – NECIC serves as a forum to discuss, advocate, monitor and review all policies related to early childhood intervention. The NECIC promotes and emphasizes the crucial components of effective early childhood intervention.
Malaysian Care – Malaysian Care offers diversified services, such as residential care and community services and is strongly committed to community development. Protect and Save the Children (PS the Children) – PS the Children focuses solely on the prevention, intervention and treatment of child sexual abuse.
Voice of the Children (VoC) – VoC's mission is to advocate for and promote law and policy reform to ensure that every child in Malaysia is protected and is no longer at risk of violation.
Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK) – YCK is a 24-hour crisis and drop-in centre, providing meals, activities, therapy, case management, and educational programmes for at-risk children and youth of Chow Kit.
For further information, please contact:
Malaysian Child Resource Institute,
(Secretariat Child Rights Coalition Malaysia)