Stakeholders advocate for zero-tolerance approach to violence against children
The safety and security of children was one area that reflected unanimous agreement among respondents in a Gleaner project that asked stakeholders to share their wish for Child Month.
Leading the charge for a zero-tolerance approach to violence against children was Opposition Spokesperson on Youth Lisa Hanna.
"Children must be a priority of every administration. Their welfare and development must supersede political partisanship and personal rancour," she said.
Pointing to National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence (NPACV) 2012-2017, she called for the current administration to maintain the programme developed under the plan.
"The issue of children and violence is multifaceted and complex. Its nature and root causes demand an effective multisectoral and holistic response. The NPACV is, therefore, a responsive sustainable framework to resolve the key issues and challenges within the child-protection sector that the participating agencies perceive as demanding urgent solutions requiring their participation," she added.
SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAMME
State Minister of Youth Floyd Green, in his response, focused on the need to continue strengthening the Safe Schools Programme and monitoring of residential homes.
"Importantly, however, the protection of our children is everybody's business. I wish that more Jamaicans will speak up when they come into the knowledge that a child is being abused, and that as a country we take a zero-tolerance approach to the abuse of our children," he said.
Lone Hvass, the United Nations Children's Fund deputy representative in Jamaica, argued for "community-based interventions to rid communities of violence, reinforcement of positive behaviours, attitudes and practices towards children among all walks of life, and a justice system where all operators are trained and committed to administration of child-friendly justice in keeping with international standards of diversion and rehabilitation."
Child psychologist Gemma Gibbon saw the need for more focused campaigns on reporting sexual abuse, especially in the rural areas.
According to her, "Too many women are protecting these abusive men, too many children are afraid to speak. There is not enough immunity for whistle-blowers and police are untrained."
Giving consideration to the fact that the Latin American and Caribbean region has the highest rates of child murders in the world, professor of child health and development, Maureen Samms-Vaughan, was adamant that reducing violence against children requires a national zero-tolerance approach.
"First, parents and community members need to understand the wide-ranging impact of violence against children. Next, they need to be supported and educated in their understanding of their role in protection of children. While laws are important to ensure justice, they often take effect after a child has been harmed. It is the home, school, and community-based actions of all of us that will actually prevent children from being harmed," she argued.