As campaigns continue to urge Malaysia’s government to deliver justice to the victims of human trafficking, a special court is being developed to specifically target the rising number of cases.
The special court will deal in clearing the backlog of pending cases related to human and sex trafficking, according to Malaymail.com. The court will be active as early as May and will be stationed in the central state of Selangor.
Malaysia is currently classified as Tier 2, meaning that the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making attempts to combat the issue. Such efforts include the expansion of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.
A 2016 report shows that the number of investigations on potential trafficking cases rose from 158 to 581. 175 alleged traffickers were prosecuted, an increase from the 38 in 2015, and 35 more were convicted.
The two million registered migrant workers in Malaysia are more susceptible to being targeted for trafficking. Because of the language barrier, lengthy legal processes, and lack of support, a lot of the victims do not report incidents to officials.
“Most of the trafficking victims are foreigners, so they don’t want to wait for a long time to testify in court,” Tenaganita director Aegile Fernandez told Reuters. “The longer you keep them, the more they are traumatised and they just want to go home, then all the efforts to get the perpetrators are wasted.”
The Women’s Aid Organization released in a report that one pull factor for human trafficking could be attributed to the desire for cheap labor by private entities in need of domestic servants, babysitters, and elderly caregivers.
Despite the special court’s objectives to expedite cases and awareness for the issue, there is skepticism on whether or not the court will improve the problems of unequal case processing and prosecutions.
While the Malaysian government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims, protection measures are still not adequate. Not all of the confirmed 1,558 victims were granted freedom of movement or the ability to work while investigations were pending in the judicial system.
In addition, corruption among the government officials hinders the combat against the trafficking crisis. According to a report, at least 42 of law enforcement officials were found accepting bribes in exchange for allowing undocumented border crossings and obstructing anti-trafficking efforts.
“The establishment of a human trafficking court should be functional, not window dressing,” Alex Ong, member of advocacy group Migrant Care, told Reuters. “Human trafficking court is just a name. Human trafficking activities remain rampant.”
It is too early to tell if the development of a specific court specializing in human trafficking cases will increase prosecutions and processed cases. Malaysia has rampant internal issues when it comes to corruption and inadequate protections for those who are victims of trafficking – two prominent problems that need to be addressed and reworked if there is to be any improvement.
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