Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has assured Barbadians that Government intends to confront the worrying problem of child abuse “head-on” and would no longer allow the situation to continue.
In an address last night to the St James South constituency branch of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Stuart disclosed that the matter had engaged the attention of Cabinet last Thursday, adding that his administration would “talk this issue through” and would “come to enlightened conclusions and enlightened ways” to deal with the problem.
“If a Government can create a means by which abused women can access the services of a magistrate in three days, how much greater is the responsibility of any enlightened Government to ensure that abused children should be able to access some kind of intervention in as short a time as possible? My Government is going to confront this issue head-on,” Stuart added.
The Prime Minister’s comments came in the wake of a number of highly publicized cases, including the deaths of two young boys – the suicide of 12-year-old Shemar Weekes of Checker Hall, St Lucy in May and six-year-old Jahan King who died from chest trauma after he was rushed to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in June – and widespread criticism of the Child Care Board’s handling of those and other cases.
The St Michael South MP said following the lengthy discussion last Thursday Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett is expected to return to this Thursday’s weekly Cabinet meeting with additional information that was requested.
“We can no longer allow a situation where abuse is happening. Government agencies are informed and nothing happens while innocent lives are being ruined. A lot of the people you meet from day to day and you consider to be difficult people, miserable and unreliable, they all have a history, a narrative behind every man or woman with whom you deal. People carry those hidden injuries right through their lives and are impeded and hobbled by them,” Stuart said.
Contending that he could not understand how stepfathers could abuse very young children, Stuart gave the assurance that his Government would shortly present initiatives to deal with the issue.
Recalling that an earlier Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had enacted the Domestic Abuse Protection Order Act in 1992, which gives a woman access to the services of the courts in three days, Stuart argued that all sorts of distortions had to be accounted for in post-colonial societies like Barbados.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. Family life in the Caribbean started for us in very difficult circumstances. Even though men loved women and women loved men, for 200 years of our history, those men and women who loved each other were also owned by a slave master. Now when you come out of that kind of history, and we were slaves longer than we were free, the effects of all of that are still haunting us and still creating distortions in our society for which we have to account and with which we have to deal,” he said. (NC)