Commentary Lifestyle

A recycled idea that may again come to nothing

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Written by Aziz Hassan

January 22, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

RECENTLY Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail mentioned that the government was considering a night curfew for teenagers, leading to the usual public reactions on the pros and cons.

In putting forward her case, Wan Azizah cited the example of Iceland, a country most would agree is not known for a vibrant nightlife compared to most Western countries, with the weather alone probably a good enough deterrent to anyone wishing to stay outdoors for  long periods.

In this respect Iceland is nothing simply because of what the country is all about. I mean, how often do you hear people talking about having one hell of a happening and entertaining time at night there?

Someone should have told Wan Azizah that many American cities have been having night curfews for teenagers for decades, with the first believed to have been introduced way back in 1880. One report says at least 500 cities there have night curfews for teenagers, with some having a clear distinction between the under 16s and under 18s. Some cities have a 10pm cut-off point for week nights and midnight for weekends. There’s a limit too for those going to the movies.   

The curfews are meant to both to protect children from the dangers posed on city streets at night and to prevent teens from the trouble they might create for themselves while out unsupervised and these include some of the most populous cities in the country

There are of course those who disagree, as argued by this writer in an article in the Kansas City Star who says curfews for teenagers are a bad idea because kids should be allowed to be kids.

There is also an opinion from a doctor on how parents should decide on their own curfews for their young children, relating this to the freedom to allow children to make their own choices and be more independent.

Night curfews for teenagers are common even in the liberal West

Other Western countries known for their liberal attitudes on most issues also have curfews similar to the ones in the US and these include the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany. Our neighbouring Thailand also imposed a curfew for teenagers in Bangkok in 2007 affecting the under 18s.

From a Malaysian perspective, what Wan Azizah spoke about wasn’t new because it was already suggested over 20 years ago at the height of the bohsia/bohjan social phenomenon.

A politician who was one of the earliest to back the idea was former Perlis mentri besar/federal minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim but he got quite a bit of flak for that. A similar situation has surfaced now because some parents disagree that the government should be playing nanny, which means that parenting should be left to parents.

But the downside is that some parents appear to have failed to impose the necessary control on their young children and also fail to understand that there is a time for everything and everyone, which is why countries all over the world impose age limits of the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, advise parental guidance for certain types of movies and ban teenagers from entering a bar, for example.

The curfews in the Western countries are primarily intended to check against the drinking of alcohol, smoking and drug abuse and parents by and large accept this as something necessary and positive.

Press reports seem to suggest that where this is concerned, some Malaysian parents appear to adopt a different attitude, well intended though such a curfew may be. One suspects that these parents do not want to be found to have failed in being responsible parents who are aware of the movements of their kids late into the night.

How could a parent, for example, not see the good side of keeping 12- or 13-year-olds at home instead of cycling around the more popular areas in Kuala Lumpur at 3 or 4am?

It is indeed difficult to agree and perplexing why some Malaysian parents think that imposing a curfew to check on social problems is a way of controlling the freedom of their young children when parents in the more liberal West accept the need for such control, even if grudgingly by some. It is something a single person without any child finds almost unthinkable, something I keep questioning about the objection despite the obvious benefits and good intentions,

Since the first time the suggestion was made came to nothing, let’s see if this time it’ll be different. After all this country is now referred to as the new Malaysia. But those in favour of this night-time curfew are advised to not place their expectations too high. And if again nothing happens, those who live long enough may hear the suggestion a third time 20 years from now.

 

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.