Violence against children Jamaica's great shame

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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Again , we feel we are on a treadmill.The initiatives have been launched, and the impassioned pleas by public officials to prevent violence against children have been made, repeatedly, over many years. Still we are faced with this shame on our nation — a shame that continues to erode our humanity and threaten to deprive our population of future minds.

How many more of our children must be killed by heartless scum before the people who protect these demons shun them and turn them over to the authorities?

How many more of our children must continue to suffer physical, verbal and sexual abuse before those who know, but choose to keep silent, realise that by not speaking out they are contributing to the harm being done to those children?

On Sunday this week the nation got a grim reminder of this scourge as people who care gathered for the annual Child Month service organised by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation in the vicinity of the Secret Garden, where a monument to slain children stands.

That monument, erected in 2008, bears the names of 758 children who were killed in violent circumstances up to the year 2015. Seven hundred and fifty-eight children killed in just eight years!

As if that were not bad enough, yesterday the joint select committee of Parliament which is reviewing child and family-related legislation heard from Justice Minister Delroy Chuck that, between January and April 6 this year, the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) took 140 rape cases before the circuit court, the highest number of cases prosecuted over the past three years.

Unfortunately, only six of those cases were disposed of — one conviction was made and five acquittals were secured.

Minister Chuck also revealed that, in 2015, CISOCA took 138 rape cases before the courts, disposed of 21, secured 10 convictions, and had 11 acquittals, while last year, a total of 122 cases were tried, 21 disposed of, five accused convicted, and 16 acquitted.

The backlog of cases in our court system no doubt contributed to the low trial numbers. However, the high number of cases speaks to a worrying lack of regard, among too many adults, for the safety of children.

The nation's childcare and protection agencies are working overtime, with limited resources, to get people across the island to understand the importance of protecting children and preserving life. But they need help. They need all well-thinking Jamaicans to not only be their eyes and ears in communities but to acknowledge and accept the importance of their mission.

On Sunday at the Child Month service, Mayor of Kingston Senator Delroy Williams made an observation that was not only painful, it was chilling. The monument to slain children, he said, is running out of space for names.

If that observation is not enough to move Jamaicans to action, we don't know what will.




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