Redouble efforts to stop child abuse

January 18, 2020

first_imgLast week, Bent Street, Werk-en-Rust Georgetown resident Nichole Rosemin was released on $100,000 bail by Magistrate Leron Daly after she was charged for unlawfully inflicting grievous bodily harm of a six-year-old child. The Court heard that this woman, earlier this month, took a hot iron and placed it on both of the child’s arms after he was caught playing with the said iron.Earlier this year, the media reported that at least six men were found guilty of raping and having anal sex with girls and boys under the age of consent, with the youngest victim being nine years old.There are also reports of children under the age of 14 being forced to work in various parts of the country, in order to assist their families in making ends meet. Whenever they refuse or complain to the authorities, these children are dealt a severe ‘beating’ by their guardians, and are sometimes treated as outcasts.And finally, there are stories of foster children being ill-treated by their caregivers, and being subjected to continuous emotional, physical and sexual violence at the hands of their close relatives, administrators of shelters and homes, pastors, and others who are in a position of trust. It was only recently that a group of teenage girls, all below the age of consent, complained bitterly about the sexual harassment and advancements that are being made by a male in charge of a dorm at an Amerindian public school.Of course the problem of child sex abuse is not peculiar to Guyana. For instance, over in Jamaica, a nine-year-old boy was systematically raped by his pastor while his mother was at work; an 18-month-old baby boy died of internal damage after being raped by his uncle; and a little girl was infected with gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes and HIV by an uncle who was in and out of prison.This led a general practitioner at a local hospital there to lobby that country’s Government to do more, because she said she was “tormented” by the onslaught of abuse faced by children there.The truth is that child abuse and child sexual abuse are shrouded in secrecy and abetted by shame. While most abuse is hidden and up-to-date statistics are scarce, it is known that nearly 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 around the world have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence worldwide.In the Caribbean region, sexual violence against children is greatly underreported, and this abuse is often culturally sanctioned. A study in Jamaica indicated that men often believe they have a right to engage in sex with girls under their care, while children in Guyana reported believing that sexual violence can be blamed on a victim’s clothing. Sexual violence against boys is especially underreported, and in some countries, is not even recognised as a crime.“Sexual abuse happens everywhere – at home, school, and in other institutions; and has a serious physical, psychological and social impact not only on girls and boys, but also on the fabric of society. It is one of the main factors that contribute to HIV infection, and that is why it is not surprising that this region has one of the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS worldwide,” said Nadine Perrault, UNICEF Regional Child Protection Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean.“Our experiences in preventing and responding to sexual abuse have taught us that laws by themselves have been ineffective in protecting children, mainly because of the silence surrounding the issue and the risks that victims face in speaking out – risks such as stigma, shame, harm and further violence. And then, often, children do not know where to turn.”To address the taboo surrounding child sexual abuse, the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago developed the Teddy Bear Campaign. Using the image of a teddy bear with a band-aid over its heart and the tagline ‘Break the Silence’, this initiative has mobilised a wide range of governmental and non-governmental partners to protect children from sexual abuse.The campaign was discussed during the Sub-Regional Meeting for Follow-up to the UN Study on Violence Against Children in the Caribbean, which took place in Kingston this week. UNICEF is currently working to expand the reach of this campaign to other countries in the Caribbean.While it would seem that Guyana’s Child Care and Protection Agency is doing all that it can to respond to almost every case that is being reported, its intervention is coming a little too late. The entity is still operating in reactive mode, and is too bogged down to embark on a robust campaign featuring the implementation of measures that could see many of these acts being prevented before it’s too late and our children are violated.There is desperate need, therefore, for the Government of Guyana to redouble its efforts to respond to this assault and violation of the decency and human rights of our children. A unit must be immediately established to tackle child abuse in all of its forms, as this can aid the work being done by CCPA. We cannot continue to be complacent.last_img

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