The Kelantan government’s proposal to implement a curfew for teenagers after midnight has raised some debate.
Many thought that it would help curb social ills among teenagers while others believed that there were better ways to tackle juvenile delinquency.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) criminologist and psychologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat says the curfew should be implemented and enforced on a case by case basis, with exceptions given during emergencies and when it involved studies or family matters.
The implementation of the proposal should be based on a guideline that is practical, enforceable, provided for accountability and addressed the root of the problem of social ills among teenagers.
“I believe that it (the curfew) is a proactive move at crime prevention and reduces the risks of teenagers becoming hardcore criminals or carrying criminal behaviour into adulthood, or becoming a crime victim themselves. The curfew narrows the chances of these happening or at least, keep it under control.
“Crimes don’t only happen at night, but certain social ills do tend to occur more frequently at night such as rempit activities, racketeering and vice activities,” she says.
Geshina has rebutted claims that the curfew will be curtailing the freedom of teenagers as parents are allowed to monitor and limit the movement of their schoolgoing children on the basis of protecting them from harm.
As children are defined as those aged 18 and below under the Child Act 2001, teenagers are, by extension, children too. As such, the curfew would be a tool of protection rather than an impingement of freedom.
Geshina dismissed concerns that the implementation of the curfew would cause teens to act out.
“Stubbornness, rebellion and out of control behaviour in children are a reflection of their upbringing and support of a negative social network.
“Parents need to be actively involved in their children’s positive development by first becoming good role models and practising good behaviour instead of leaving the responsibility to school teachers or others. Parents or guardians need to better understand their roles and responsibilities as well as better understand how they shape the personalities of children.”
Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) Counselling Centre director Dr Fauziah Mohd Saad agrees that the curfew would do good for teenagers.
Such regulations will keep parents and teenagers more vigilant and would also help children develop emotional, cognitive and behavioural maturity as they age, turning them into more responsible adults.
“When such laws are implemented, children and parents would become more alert because the curfew involves the whole family.
“The people will abide by the rules if the law is implemented. People abide with the smoking ban in food premises because they don’t want to face RM10,000 in fines,” she says.
The president of the Malaysian Youth Council Jufitri Joha also has also come out to support the proposal.
“We cannot deny that freedom is for all but we need to set limits. The curfew protects teenagers from getting involved in social ills. What we are proposing is that in the initial stage, a grace period is given during which we can hold campaigns and raise awareness of the necessity of the curfew.
“Parents also need to play a role in monitoring their children and not allow their children to loiter around outside past 10pm. The points of view of both the parents and children also need to be taken into account. I believe that if many agree to this, we can get the support needed to implement the curfew,” he says.
Jufitri says that to ensure the curfew brought intended results, the government needs to provide teenagers with alternative activities for them to spend their time beneficially, such as sports activities or educational programmes.
“The government could, for example, provide a track for teenagers to race safely or beef up martial arts programmes to attract the participation of teenagers,” he adds.
The National Parents and Teachers Association chairman Datuk Mohd Ali Mohd Hassan thinks the head of the family plays an important role in the disciplining of their children and ensuring that they are not out or about after midnight.
“The fact is that it is better if the heads of the family implemented the ruling themselves and ensure that their children are all home by midnight.
“We know it is natural for teenagers to want to explore new things, but without parental supervision they could easily get involved in unhealthy social activities. Parents need to figure out a way to monitor the lives of their children without making them feel stifled,” he argues.
Mohd Ali, however, thinks that it would be quite difficult for enforcement agencies, like the police, to enforce the ruling as it would add more to their current workload.
“Which human resources will we use to round up children who break the curfew? The police have bigger matters to take care of such as issues of national security,” he opined.
Food stall operator Ahmad Hisyam Azren Ibrahim, 32, meanwhile, thinks that preventing teenagers from going out past midnight was unreasonable as it would affect business, particularly that of food premises.
“Our customers are generally teenagers so implementing the curfew would be like blocking our source of income.
“I also think that enforcing the curfew would affect the tourism sector as it is as if we are obstructing the freedom of tourists to walk around at night. I don’t think the situation is so bad that it calls for the implementation of a curfew,” he said.
Ahmad Hisyam said what was more important was for parents to realise their role in educating and monitoring their children.
The Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob had previously said that a detailed study regarding the curfew would be conducted first before it can be implemented.
The state welfare, family and women development committee chairman Mumtaz Md Nawi said that at least seven countries around the world had implemented a curfew as such.
The Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports Steven Sim Chee Keong meanwhile had said on Jan 4 that youths should be viewed as strategic partners instead of a problem that needed to be addressed with a curfew. –SITI FAUZIAH HASAN & MUHAMAD SAUFEE ROSMAN