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Break the silence - Stakeholders want increased protection for Jamaica's children

Published:Saturday | April 16, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Green

While recognising that there is a growing number of males who are victims of sexual abuse, executive director of Eve for Life, Patricia Watson, said that statistics still show that girls are far more disadvantaged when it comes to issues of abuse.

Speaking at the Keep the Children Safe Forum, hosted by Eve for Life in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Watson noted that there is a cultural acceptance that continues to plague society. She urged stakeholders to fix the gaps that exist.

"Even with the understanding that stigma may cause under-reporting of sexual abuse of boys, the numbers are too wide to be ignored. Girls are the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse victims. In our work, we realise that there has been a cultural acceptance of sexual abuse towards our girls," she said.

According to the Eve for Life executive director, if a boy is sexually abused, the outrage, condemnation and shock seem louder and more evident, unlike the girls, unless it's a situation where the girls are murdered.

REACTION TO ABUSE

"Even at Eve For Life, we have been struggling with the general apathy when it comes to the abuse of our girls. How did we get here as a country, where, for years, 20 per cent of our girls and young women report their first sexual experience as rape?" She also questioned, "How did we get to a point where girls are seen as objects for men's gratification, a practice which is encouraged by our culture?" Watson urged Jamaicans to break the cycle and protect the children.

Floyd Green, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, emphasised the need for things to be done differently in the interest of the nation's youth.

"I think [that] as a ministry, we have to look at the work that is being done and how we can help in going forward. Sometimes we tend to duplicate what is being done instead of efficiently and effectively working with some of the best practitioners to strengthen what is already there," the state minister said.

"We want to give Child Month a new focus. We want to leave no doubt in the mind of anybody that for this Government, children are our number one priority. We want our children to be educated. We want to be a nation that focuses on producing healthy children," he continued.