When Malaysians are attacked by Western child protection
- what to do?

By Marianne Haslev Skanland
professor emeritus
Oslo, Norway

The article was first published, slightly abbreviated, in Free Malaysia Today (FMT), with the title
Be aware of Western child protection systems, on 5 February 2014.

It is the second of three articles written for publication in Malaysia when four Malaysian children had been taken by the child protection agency in Sweden and placed in a foster home, while the parents were jailed pending trial. A summary of my articles is found here: A child protection case Malaysia / Sweden, with links to the other two articles.


The actions taken by Malaysia's Deputy Foreign Minister and Prime Minister in getting the four children back home from Sweden are all that the actions of a country's leaders ought to be. The children are where they want to be. The parents, too, know that their children are home and that Malaysia's government will not forget them in their defence against the charges in Sweden. Surely these two facts will relieve their minds somewhat.

Then what?

If the case of the parents now held in Sweden were a solitary, exaggerated reaction from a child protection system which was basically good for children and held their most urgent needs firmly in mind at all times, it would not be so bad. In the present case the children's expressed longing for their parents and their home and their wish to be with them would have been taken seriously and the agents of the system would do all they could to lessen the separation, treat the children utterly gently, and facilitate their contact with and return to their relatives. Instead there has been rigid rejection on many levels, until the Malaysian government were able to bring about "an exception".

How could it be an exception? This very term speaks volumes about the way such cases are handled generally. And indeed Sweden's handling of this case is fairly ordinary, except for letting the children go.

How are children treated in child protection cases?

If one does not already know - as the critics and the sufferers of Western child protection do know - that our authorities in such cases go all out to establish evidence against parents, for instance by brain-washing the children against them, one only needs to consider what we can read in an article following the Malaysian children's return: the 14 year old daughter has been interrogated for about 20 hours in total. It must have been carried out by the police, by social workers, or by foster parents. I think even this alone might possibly fall under the heading of "torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", especially being done to a child. Such treatment is a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Sweden is a member of the Council of Europe and is therefore bound by the Convention.

In fact, the system's treatment of children is the central issue in child protective cases, and just this is what our Western authorities never consider. Unless the parents are utterly vicious, the worst kind of child abuse with the most destructive effects is the separating of children from their parents.

There is a lot of research evidence for these effects, in the form of statistics showing that: even when compared to children growing up under very negative and difficult circumstances but with their own parents, foster children and former foster children are strongly over-represented in areas such as homelessness, lack of education, lack of employment, early disability pensioning, failed marriages, drug and alcohol abuse, crime and imprisonment, mental illness, physical illness, being abused or mistreated in their home (the foster-home), anti-social attitude and lack of social adjustment, early death from illness or suicide.

A large law-practice in Oslo with several partners specialised in criminal law and more than a thousand criminal cases each year, decided around 1990 to go through their records for some years and establish whether there were particular, salient factors in the background of their clients who were up for crimes. True, not everyone was convicted by the courts, but they were at least charged. It was found that 50% had been in care for longer or shorter periods as children, and a further 30% had been at the receiving end of other measures taken by the child protection services.

One of the most impressive research projects from a large research group found that separation of children, even up to the age of 17, from parents affected both their mental and their physical health negatively, and more negatively when the cause was NOT the death of the parent(s) than when it was! (There are several publications by members of this research group, some can be found on the internet; see e.g. O. Agid, B. Shapira, J. Zislin, M. Ritsner, B. Hanin, H. Murad, T. Troudart, M. Bloch, U. Heresco-Levy og B. Lerer, Department of Psychiatry, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem: "Environment and vulnerability to major psychiatric illness: a case control study of early parental loss in major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia", Molecular Psychiatry 1999 Mar; 4 (2): 163-72; Kendler et al.: Childhood parental loss and risk for first-onset  of major depression and alcohol dependence; the time decay of risk and sex differences,
Psychological Medicine 2002, 32: 1187.94.)

Never do our Western child protection experts pay attention to any of this - they do not even recognise themselves as a cause of abuse and pain.

It is as bad as can be, but is getting worse

The taking into public care is frequent and is actually escalating in several countries.

There is therefore reason for Malaysians to adopt a heightened awareness and consider what one can do to counteract and prevent such tragedies generally. It is not enough to avoid breaking the law in Western countries, since child protection employees and their helpers can come up with the weirdest of arguments and have them accepted in court. The court cases that are supposed to make sure that there is real, serious and truthful evidence before children are separated from their families are nothing of the sort in practice; an illustration was given by Jorgen Stueland's article
Child protection: The Norwegian way in FMT on 1 February. I found that Mr Wee Choo Keong has put on his home page the video "Wanted by the State: Your Children. Sweden"; this is good and reliable too (see "Child protection or child abuse in Sweden?").

Possible practical measures

The case I mentioned in my comment article in FMT on 29 January (= The Malaysian children held in Sweden need their own family), concerning two Indian children taken into care by Norwegian child protection, caused a lot of concern in India – somewhat like what we see now in Malaysia.

A positive outcome was that a group of Indians actively concerned in social issues: politicians, judges, lawyers, people engaged in human rights organisations, worked out a Petition, directed to their own Indian National Human Rights Commission, urging it to recommend some practical measures they would like their government to implement.

Malaysians concerned with the welfare of their own population when travelling to Western countries might do well to read the whole Petition, including the description of what is going on in the welfare states of the Western world. The Petition and its accompanying documents have been published in several places, e.g. on the internet (FMT has them available as the last three links in this article:
Children seized from parents in foreign countries). Mrs Aiyar's speech at the press conference lauching the Petition can be found here.

It is worth noting that representatives of
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Brunei, Russia and Slovakia were present. Of the press coverage of the launch, senior reporter Christopher Booker's article in The Telegraph is especially clear: Indians join Slovaks in protesting against UK child snatchers.

My hope, then, is that some groups of motivated Malaysians will perhaps contact the Indian group and discuss cooperation over how you may influence the 'civilised West' in the direction of more genuine protection of children. That might protect your own citizens and others too. Steadfast reasoning from several countries will have an impact on Western nations in the long run. The politicians who rule us are copycats, just like other people are!

The measures suggested in the Indian Petition are worth repeating here:

The National Human Rights Commission exercises its powers under Sections 12(d) and (e) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to recommend the following measures for the effective implementation of and removal of factors that inhibit the enjoyment of the human rights as discussed above of Indian children and their relatives in India under Article 12(4) of the ICCPR (right of return), Article 15 of the ICESCR (cultural rights), Articles 23(1) of the ICCPR and 10(1) of the ICESCR (right to widest possible assistance for preservation and protection of the family) and Article 14 and Article 21 of the constitution of India (right to equal treatment in all aspects of State action and the right to life):

(a) The Government of India designates a committee or department with representatives in all embassies, consulates and missions abroad with the duty of responding to the plight of Indian children caught in care proceedings abroad. Such committee or department to have well-defined and transparent procedures for the receipt, investigation and expeditious disposal of petitions from children or the relatives of children who have been placed under state care, foster care or have been institutionalised or given away in adoption in or consequent to child care proceedings abroad; or are under actual or threatened confiscation, whether interim, temporary or permanent, in child care investigations or proceedings abroad;

(b) The Government of India empowers such committee or department to use its good offices with the governments of foreign States, particularly States that are signatories to the ICCPR and the ICESCR, to enter into agreements, understandings or other arrangements for the expeditious return of Indian children caught in care proceedings in such States to their families in India;

(c) The Government of India issues a travel advisory drawing the attention of Indians planning to travel abroad, even for holidays or medium term stay, to the severe and confiscatory nature of foreign child protection laws;

(d) The Government of India sensitises its embassies, consulates and missions abroad of the human rights concerns with the confiscatory powers of child welfare services of the developed world and instruct them to gather information about child welfare care laws and about lawyers, activists, language interpreters and other persons who can be of assistance to Indians facing confiscatory child care proceedings or investigations.

under Sections 12(g), (h), (i) and (j) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to commission a legal and statistical study on the functioning of confiscatory child protection or child welfare laws abroad.

The National Human Rights Commission exercises its powers under Section 20(1) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to submit a report to the Government of India in regard to the matters raised in this petition.
The National Human Rights Commission exercises its powers of research and awareness-building

The National Human Rights Commission exercises its powers of spreading human rights literacy and awareness of safeguards for the protection of human rights; to encourage the efforts of non-governmental organisations and institutions working in the field of human rights; and to perform such other functions as it may consider necessary for the protection of human rights under Sections 12 (h), (i) and (j) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 by espousing and publicising the humanitarian concerns raised in this petition.


Other articles about the Malaysia / Sweden case:

Malaysian family in Sweden – children taken
Forum Redd Våre Barn, 22 January 2014 –