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UN committee grills Hanna on children's rights

Published:Tuesday | January 20, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

After being grilled for three hours yesterday's opening session, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna returns today before the United Nation's Committee on the Rights of the Child to field another round.

Hanna who leads a Jamaican delegation to Geneva, Switzerland where the meeting is being held, told The Gleaner that many of the questions posed were skewed based on incorrect and outdated data in its possession.

Speaking with The Gleaner after being quizzed on all areas of child care, Hanna said she spent much of the session correcting the false records or putting into perspective the questions that she fielded.

"The questions were rigorous as I was asked on the gamut of child-related issues, all sorts of questions said Hanna. "I am expected to field another 79 questions plus follow-up ones today," she added.

Hanna appeared to have taken the intense grilling in strides. She suggested that the intensified approach may have been inspired by the fact it was the first time that a senior government minister had subjected herself to being probed in such a forum at this level.

She told the Committee that as minister, she was in charge of 4,370 children in Jamaica's child protection sector, 203 of whom are in custodial care; 85 in remand facilities and 118 in housed in correctional centres.

Hanna said this represents 5.4 children per 1,000 in child protection and 0.25 per 1,000 in custodial care respectively.

There was no easing up of the barrage of queries although Hanna pointed out in her statement that since the tabling of the 2011 report her ministry had intensified its strides.

This is in advancing their (children's) rights to access education, protection against violence and ensuring that those who come in conflict with the law are given equal rights and justice consistent with the provisions of the CRC.

"In framing our policies, we have not only paid attention to this convention, we have also been on the ground, spoken to our children in state care, in schools and in juvenile detention and heard what they had to say about our approaches," said Hanna.

She told the Committee that the Child Care and Protection Act passed in 2004 defines a child as any person under the age of 18 and serves as one piece of legislation that sets universal standards for the care and treatment of children. "This law acts in tandem with over 10 other pieces of relevant legislation," she said

Hanna said the legislative and policy frameworks are done in response to a number of service provisions of the Convention and its Optional Protocol to which Jamaica is committed. "As a country, we are always in search of ways by which we can strengthen our child rights provisions," said Hanna.