Friday February 1, 2013
Missing teens need the same attention
PETALING JAYA: Missing teenagers should be given the same amount of attention as their younger counterparts, according to children’s rights groups.
Childline Malaysia project director Michelle Wong said runaway teens were seen as being more able to take care of themselves, which were “unfortunate and misguided” presumptions.
“The search efforts should be the same for all children under the age of 18 because they have the right to be cared for,” she said, adding that even runaway teens were at risk.
“They too are vulnerable to human trafficking,” Wong said, noting that the National Urgent Response alert was only triggered for those aged 12 and below.
Child activist Dr Hartini Zainudin said that there was a danger in classifying missing teens as runaways.
“When you consider a teen a runaway and not a missing child, he or she is no longer an innocent victim but a wilful delinquent,” she said.
She added that this might result in the case being treated differently.
Malaysian Child Resources Institute executive director Brian Lariche stressed that parents were ultimately responsible for their children.
Unfortunately, he said, some parents tended to pass their responsibility as guardians to others.
He said that the least that parents should do was to keep track of what their children did during and after school and ensure they were safe.
Knowing Children international advisor Judith Ennew said the Government should regularly provide statistics on kidnapped and missing children.
She said that activist groups would be able to help reduce the problem of missing or runaway children if they had the data to analyse cases and figure out their causes.
“If we don’t know what’s causing it, we can’t prevent it. Information needs to be collected and analysed,” Ennew said.
She added that her organisation would be more than willing to work with the police and other groups on a wide-range study on the issue of missing children.