A six-year-old boy allegedly molested a six-year-old girl in a PCF childcare centre. The parents of the girl are livid. Rightfully so. They wanted the childcare centre to do something about it. That is understandable. The mother went on to social media to vent her anger.
The personnel of the childcare centre informed both the parents of the girl and the boy as soon as they knew about the case. But the mother of the boy apparently claimed that she had a headache and refused to go to the childcare centre. The mother of the boy also apparently told the principal of the childcare centre to “just beat the boy”.
The whole incident is terribly unfortunate. Not just for the girl. But for the boy too.
The boy is just six. Even though he was touching the girl very inappropriately, one has to wonder whether there was any sexual intent. He is just six. And even if there was sexual intent, it is highly unlikely for him to know before the act that what he did was inappropriate.
In Singapore, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is seven-years-old. It means that our society has deemed that children below the age of seven are too young to fully understand whether what they are doing is right or wrong and thus cannot be held to be responsible for any act that is criminal.
In many other developed nations, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is even higher. In UK, it is 10 years-old. And even that, there are psychologists and neurologists who think that 10 is still too young to deem a child to be able to fully understand that what he did was wrong.
So this six-year-old boy in this case probably don’t understand that what he did was wrong. And why it was wrong. Another important question we need to ask is how a six-year-old boy would get the idea to deliberately touch a six-year-old girl in such an inappropriate manner? Did he see someone at home doing something like this? Or he watched it on someone’s laptop? Or on the TV? Or worse. Maybe someone at home has been doing that to him. Whatever it is, it suggests that there is something seriously wrong going on in the home of the six-year-old boy.
Indeed, there is ample research that links criminal behaviour of young people with poverty, mental ill health, being in care or experience of neglect/ abuse within their families, misuse of drugs or alcohol, and having learning and behavioural difficulties.
And the response of the boy’s mother is very telling. I know if my mom got a call that I was in some kind of trouble, even if she was on her deathbed, even if she was being lowered into the grave, she would get up. No matter how old I am or she is. But the mom of that boy… refused to go to the childcare centre just because she had a headache… And asked the childcare centre staff to just beat her boy and think that that’s sufficient remedial action. Something is very wrong in the home and with the family of the boy.
The girl at least has a loving and protective family to help her through this experience. The boy however…
There is no doubt that what the boy did was wrong. For that, he must be punished. But beyond just punishment, I hope the childcare centre, the community, and the authorities (e.g. MSF, ECDA) can intervene to not only educate the boy, but also to help him.