Mr Leon Perera: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether the Government intends to conduct a national study on sexual exploitation and abuse of children to determine its root causes and assess its magnitude so as to design policies and programmes to address the same; and (b) to what extent corporal punishment is permitted in childcare and alternative care settings.
The Government takes a zero tolerance stance against the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. This is reflected in our laws. On 1 January 2020, Penal Code amendments to enhance protection of minors from sexual exploitation came into force. These include new offences such as sexual communication with a minor under 16, and the production, distribution, advertising or possession of child abuse material.
2 The number of such offences under the Penal Code has remained low and stable, and the Government has and will continue to ensure that our policies and laws deter abuse of and enhance protection for victims of such offences. While there are no plans for a national study at the moment, the Government regularly monitors trends and data, as well as consults stakeholder groups, including those who work with children who have suffered abuse.
3 The safety and well-being of children is of utmost importance. In the preschool setting, the Early Childhood Development Centres Regulations prohibit staff or education service providers of licensed preschools from administering corporal punishment.
4 In alternative care settings, corporal punishment is generally not administered in licensed Children and Young Persons Homes, but may take place for male residents in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres with legislative safeguards in place. For example, corporal punishment is permitted only after an inquiry, where the person-in-charge of the Home must be satisfied that the male resident is guilty of serious misconduct (e.g. assault, instigation of mass disturbances, and promotion of gang activities), and that the resident’s actions warrant corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is legislatively prohibited for female residents, and residents with physical or mental disability.