Barbados’ existing legislation protecting children again sexual crimes and violence could be up for a boost early next year.
Minister of Family and Youth, Stephen Lashley told a regional audience at the launch of the UNICEF Break The Silence Initiative last evening that steps were already underway for a mandatory reporting of sexual crimes against children.
“I am pleased, ladies and gentlemen, to be able to inform you that Barbados has taken steps to establish a Mandatory Reporting Protocol to deal with child sexual abuse cases; and to reform all its laws pertaining to children and families. A consultant is currently working on this and by early 2013, I will be going to the Cabinet with recommendations for drafting instructions to enhance existing legislation that will offer greater protection to our children,” he announced in the midst of the ongoing UNiTE Sub-regional conference Combatting Sexual Violence Against Children in the Caribbean.
Lashley had earlier called on the respective territories to move rapidly to put the necessary laws in place that would take immediate action against reports of such abuse. He had likewise called for an improvement of the juvenile justice system and the operations of the family courts.
“Too often, across the region we do not have the resources to have dedicated, fully specialised Family Courts.
“We must also put mechanisms in place to have mandatory reporting of all incidents of child sexual abuse; and no parent, particularly mothers should be afraid to believe their children if they are told that someone within the household has touched them inappropriately; forced them to perform an act of gross indecency, and or have raped or sodomised them,” he said.
Before an audience that included government ministers, civil society leaders, legal professionals, UN representatives and others at the Hilton Barbados, the minister said that mothers should not be put in the position where they had to “choose financial support over the dignity and self-esteem of their sons or their daughters”.
“Every child in Barbados, in our region, indeed in the world deserves and has the right to enjoy his/her childhood. Children have the right to be able to play and to have fun like only they can; and they deserve to be able to trust other children and adults around them.
“While such a subject matter evokes many emotions, let us from today make a further commitment to do our part as advocates, and strengthen our efforts to stop child sexual abuse,” he pleaded.
Guests to the launch were invited to sign personal pledge cards to record their individual commitments to action on speaking out against child sexual abuse.
The UNICEF Break the Silence Initiative is a multi-pronged campaign to protect children against sexual abuse. It aims to break the stigma surrounding this issue and to encourage victims and their families to speak out and denounce sexual abuse. At the same time, it is also directed at policy-makers, health workers and police authorities to support them in creating the protection and treatment services needed to support and care for victims. (LB)