With boys and girls as young as 14 years old said to be falling victim to domestic violence, a local women’s rights activist says she is not at all convinced that the Child Care Board (CCB) is doing enough to protect this island’s children.
As part of a scathing rebuke of the state-run child protection agency, Public Relations Officer of the National Organization of Women (NOW) Marsha Hinds has called for an urgent and comprehensive review of the CCB’s operations, as well as those of other social welfare agencies.
“Right now one of the biggest challenges that we have is that a lot of the social safety net is not working. The Child Care Board is not working, family services in Barbados are not working, the Chief Probation Officer, her office is completely inundated. So, in terms of when you get these things happening, what are you supposed to do? Where are you supposed to send these people? That is one of the major challenges we have to accept that the social services in Barbados need a complete and comprehensive revamp.
“We also need to train our children much earlier in how to interact in intimate partner relations,” Hinds added, while charging that the CCB in particular was not living up to its primary child protection mandate.
“Because of that, we find that a lot of these instances [of domestic abuse] that happen go unaddressed. Sometimes the parents know, sometimes the parents don’t know. In cases when the parent does know they are just so happy to get their daughter away from the bad situation that after they get their daughter out of the situation and she safe, that is all they want,” the NOW official told Barbados TODAY, adding, Barbadians had lost faith in the CCB’s handling of such cases as the perpetrators were not being brought to justice.
“The instances of reporting to the CCB are very low because the public has worked out that the CCB is not functioning and it does not make any sense reporting because nothing happens. That is another reason that makes schoolgirls a vulnerable group. These men [perpetrators] have worked out that they can do as they please with the nation’s school children and nothing happens,” Hinds stressed.
Over the weekend, Chairman of Save Foundation Barbara Daniel-Goddard reported that children as early as 14 years old were falling victim to domestic violence.
“The reason for [going into schools] is the teachers are aware of young girls and boys ages 14, 15 and 16 who are having conflict relationships. The boys are slapping around the girls . . . . They are controlling their phones, they are controlling what they are wearing, telling them what they should and should not do,” Daniel-Goddard said.
In response, Hinds suggested that the problem was one of culture, explaining that it was normal for Barbadian schoolgirls to become intimately involved with grown men for monetary gain.
“One of those vulnerable populations is school aged girls because we have this phenomenon in Barbados where some mothers ask school aged girls to subsidize their schooling so they are looking for transactions to keep themselves in school, and that makes them vulnerable. Some are themselves victims of abuse [by] their fathers, uncles or mothers’ boyfriends [and] that makes them vulnerable in terms of self esteem and other issues,” the NOW spokeswoman added.
Hinds also expressed concern that Barbadian society as a whole was turning a blind eye to domestic abuse of children.
“So there are a lot of cases where pubescent girls are allowed to deal with men in their 20’s, sometimes older, and it is seen as a relationship. It is not seen as child abuse, it is not seen as statutory rape, it is seen as a relationship.
“So, we have to have a national conversation around the issue and we have to take that collective wool off our eyes and stop pretending that we do not know that these things are happening,” the passionate women’s rights advocate stressed, while calling on the CCB to frontally address the issue of reporting.
“When you have child care officers who to themselves sleep with pubescent girls then report to who? Report to who?” she asked. (LG)