Abuse of disabled children too prevalent – Hanna
As Jamaica continues to reel from news of violent acts against children, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna is revealing that children who are disabled are being singled out for physical and verbal abuse.
"We've gotten reports that people spit on them, people take their money, and people do all kinds of things to children who act differently than how some of you might act," Hanna said as she addressed students last Friday during a 'Pon di Corna' session hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Culture at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre. "That is a form of child abuse."
She also said that the ministry was aware of "too many situations of young children being sexually abused", and noted that boys, too, are victims.
As sexual exploitation often comes from "older members of the family", Hanna revealed that children were hesitant to report these acts to adults.
The minister chose the occasion to plead to both adults and children to make the effort to report all incidents of abuse to the Office of the Children's Registry or the Child Development Agency.
Donna Lowe, principal of Genesis Academy, a special-needs high school in Kingston, echoed Hanna's concerns, pointing to incidents where children in wheelchairs were physically attacked for simply being disabled.
Lowe said the situation is so dire that JUTC personnel have to escort and "baby sit" the disabled students who wait for transportation at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre.
LOOK OUT FOR THE DISABLED
Lowe pleaded directly with the students who were congregated at the busy bus park to look out for the disabled children.
"We want you to understand that you need to be kinder to each other, and to understand that it could be a brother or a sister (who is afflicted with a disability)," Lowe said to the large group of students.
She continued: "Those of you who are more conscious, I need you to look out for them, help them. The youths with disabilities are youths first, the disability is secondary."
As minister responsible for youth, Lisa Hanna said that every week an average of 220 reports of abuse against children were made, and said more investigators are being brought in to deal with the now over 3,000 cases in backlog.
"I don't think that the increase in reports necessarily means that there are more cases of abuse, but people are more sensitised to report," Hanna explained.