Many of us, care partners or people with disabilities who work with children with disabilities are heartened this week by the appalling and inhumane abuse and murder of a 6 year old disabled girl in Sarawak. It hurt. This poor girl was abused, murdered, sacked and then dumped in the bush.
We are not new to hearing about abuse, violence, or murder of children with disabilities. International data show that child abuse for children with disabilities is three to five times higher than for children without disabilities, and Malaysia is no exception. Local community research is scarce, but it is estimated that her 50% of all children with disabilities have experienced some form of abuse.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratified by Malaysia on 19 July 2010, explicitly contains provisions on the prevention of abuse and violence.
Article 16 of the CRPD, Freedom from Exploitation, Violence and Abuse, states: All forms of exploitation, violence, abuse…”
Article 10 of the CRPD, “Right to Life” states: “
Our government’s ratification of the CRPD means that we have an obligation to respect, protect and enforce it. In this context, it protects children with disabilities from abuse and violence and upholds their right to life. The girl’s death shows gaps in child protection, especially when it comes to children with disabilities.
Some members of society erroneously view their lives as less worthwhile than those without disabilities, and believe that children with disabilities are “less human” than children without disabilities. Others may wonder why it happened, that “it’s hard to care for someone with a disability”, or that “they were probably under too much stress”. You might think, “I understand.”
Such a view is abhorrent and demeaning to all of humanity.
Abusing and/or killing a child with a disability is never justified.
It is important to reflect how our society and government agencies have failed children with disabilities. It’s not just that they have often failed to protect them from harm, violence, abuse and murder. It is more about how we continue to and systematically lack the social support that is essential for children with disabilities to live safely and thrive in their communities.
We should reflect on the fact that we have not been able to provide the necessary social support to the families and guardians of children with disabilities. This includes respite care, inclusive and affordable child care, affordable and accessible treatment services in local communities, inclusive education and funding. All parents need society to invest in such services and supports, and even more so those who care for children with disabilities.
We ask that you respond to this news of the murder of a young child with a disability with strong emotions and use that passion to demand better services for all children with disabilities.
One disabled child killed is one child too many.
Ng Lai Thin is the Project Officer, Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS is the Advisor and Wong Hui Min is the President of the National Early Childhood Intervention Council.