SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE 2ND READING OF THE CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT
Mr Speaker Sir,
As a parent, it is certainly disquieting to look at the cases where children are abused, ill-treated or neglected by their parents. I am sure this sentiment is shared by other honourable members too. What is worrying is the number of cases being reported have been on the rise especially for sexual abuse with 248 cases up from 107 in 2016, and 181 in 2017. Physical abuse 584 cases up from 444 in 2016, 373 in 2017. And, the number of neglect cases has somewhat stayed in the 300 range since 2016. It is also troubling to see there is a rise in cases of kids between 13-15 years who are beyond parental control.
We are living in very challenging times. Our young not only can access all sorts of disturbing material online, but are also basing their relationships and self-worth on social media.
They are very vulnerable. They receive a lot of information, but might not be sufficiently mature to understand consequences.
The aim of this Bill is to strengthen the Government and community support to help these children and improve their rehabilitation and re-integration into society. What I would like to ask the Minister is what is there now, or anything in the pipeline, which help the community to intervene even before the kids reach this situation? We need parents who have difficulty handling their kids to be able to turn to someone for advice, counselling or guidance before the situation gets out of hand. I am very encouraged to read of how a number of cases of sexual abuse were captured by the MOE after the students went through lessons on sex education, and spoke to the counsellors. So, from Ministry of Social and Family Development, can a parenting education clinic be run for parents who need to address the challenges they face in bringing up their child?
Sir, another point I want to raise is what is the approach of the MSF counsellors when they are called in to investigate a case of child abuse? Under what circumstances would they recommend to the Police to take action against a parent? I raise this question because I want to share with the House an anecdote that happened where one of the parents the father was charged and jailed for beating the 10-year-old child. This case went to Court and the father was jailed. But in the one year, between from the time of offence to the court sentence, the father and child had a very close relation, going out together, bonding together. So, may question is what do counsellors and the Police take into consideration when recommending the offender for court action? I think there are circumstances which merit consideration as even today the child and the offending parent are very close. To me the main thing is to look at how can we help reconcile the child with the parent. The offender can be warned, sent for counselling etc.
Next, I would like to ask in the case of those children who are the subject of any investigation, how would the Ministry work with MOE so that the teacher would be able to pay special attention to the chid, in case he/she needs extra care, or the teacher may need to be more sensitive to the trauma that the child might have gone through?
Mr Speaker Sir, in empowering the Director, protectors and designated caregivers to make decisions for the child on sensitive and important decisions, I would like to ask if the Minister could share whether the child’s other close relatives, such as uncle, auntie or any other close person, wherever possible would be included or consulted for an opinion in the decision-making process? This is to ensure that at least a family representative has a role in the whole process.
I support the Bill. Thank you.
In Chinese please. 我听过一起事件，父亲打了10岁的孩子，但是还是和那个孩子的关系很亲。最终，父亲判坐牢，被迫和孩子分开。我觉得，亲子关系时一辈子的 。
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MSF here