Tue | Jun 6, 2023

Don’t Pussyfoot with Protecting Our Children

Published:Tuesday | April 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMJaevion Nelson

There is a deafening silence that has clearly impaired our ability to hear our children weeping for our help. The shamefulness of our nonchalance and inaction has seemingly muzzled the vast majority of us. The gruesome stories of rape, murder and other forms of abuse and violence have obviously paralysed a great many of us. Seemingly, these incidents that we are routinely treated to on a daily basis have debilitated us to the extent that we fail to question the existence of a comprehensive plan of action to address this grave issue.

What is the Government doing to address the issue? How are ministers working together to engender a Jamaica where children can, in fact, feel safe and secure and know that when heinous crimes are perpetrated against them, robbing them of their dignity, they do not have to suffer in silence - that they can come forward and seek help?

Many children have been murdered since the start of the year, and there is hardly a sense of purpose and urgency to treat this quandary with alacrity. The high incidence of violence and abuse against our children is seemingly not enough to be a catalyst for meaningful action among a wide range of stakeholders, including, and especially, our parents, parliamentarians and community and religious leaders.

I highly doubt there could be any other reason for our appalling apathy and negligence, but that we are inundated by the vast number of news and police reports and children reporting being abused physically, sexually, and emotionally, as well as the fact that so many Jamaicans would not report same to the authorities. There can be no other explanation for our inattention and preoccupation with everything but the protection of the rights of our children.

I must say I was rather shocked and, of course, delighted to hear mention of CISOCA (Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) in the nightly news earlier this week. It's been a little unsettling that I've not heard much of them in recent times (read the past two or so years). I have also missed the strident advocacy and impassioned pleas for the safety of our children from the indomitable Betty-Ann Blaine and her colleagues.

meaningful action needed

What frightens me is what seems to be the alluring nature of particular orifice(s) which apparently arouse more 'concern' than it should. These individuals are not as forthright about rampant abuse and violence being perpetrated against our precious children. The very same children so many profess they are deeply concerned about. I suppose some orifices are more important than others.

We need to stop pussyfooting with the protection of our children. We urgently need to recognise that meaningful action is needed, and it is needed now. And before you quip, I won't believe there is a resource constraint. We continue to squander and misspend resources every day. It's about time we spend more on our children. We can't rely on our hope in 'divine interventions', prayer breakfasts and encouragements of the so-called utility of attendance at church. Action is needed, and it must be evidence-based and rights-based, as well as enjoy leadership from the highest level of government. Political expediency is needed. This is an urgent matter!

Why hasn't the powerful Church lobby not used its might to champion the rights of our children as they do for lottery, flexi-week, gay rights and other matters that have no bearing on their freedom of speech, religious freedom or interfere with the rights of others?

"How many children will it take to be murdered in similar circumstances before the Government will present a plan to address what is clearly a national crisis?" (Senator Kamina Johnson Smith).

We need public-education campaigns on radio and television (we can use government-allotted broadcast time for this) and in communities, as well as schools. We need to empower the police to conduct investigations and pursue and secure justice for our children. We need to find more (creative?) ways for children to feel safe in reporting incidents of abuse and violence. We need to address the systemic challenges that discourage citizens from reporting the violation of the rights of our children to the police.

Let's get to work. Let's do it for our children. They matter too.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.