KINGSTON — Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has appealed for a collaborative effort from a wider cross-section of stakeholders, to rid the society of the commercial sexual exploitation of its children.
The Minister made the appeal in a brief speech delivered by the Director of the National STI/HIV Programme, Dr. Kevin Harvey, at the opening of the Inter-American Programme for the Prevention and Eradication of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Illegal Trafficking and Trade Children and Adolescents second regional meeting, at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Wednesday (July 6).
Mr. Spencer said that the sexual exploitation of Jamaica’s children, particularly for commercial purposes, was a challenge requiring immediate attention and an “united effort” to solve.
“Any sexual abuse or exploitation of that nature is abhorrent, and should never be condoned in any way, whether it is by turning a blind eye to the situation, or by protecting the perpetrator, in any way,” the Minister said.
He observed that the situation worsens when children are involved, as they are generally abused by the very adults who are responsible for their care.
The Health Minister said, while the Government must take the lead in promoting and protecting children’s rights and wellbeing, the administration could not do it alone. He said that the help and cooperation of families, communities, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations and the private sector were needed.
“It is essential that we all assume a part of the responsibility, if we hope to be successful in tackling this problem,” he said, adding that the government will continue to improve the protection offered to children, through multi-agency collaboration and increased dialogue.
Minister Spencer also cited the need to strengthen countries policies, programmes and the legislative framework to improve the welfare of children, and ensure that their rights are observed and their needs met.
The two-day meeting, being held under the theme, “Protecting Children of the Caribbean from Commercial Sexual Exploitation”, is jointly staged by the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in association with the Inter-American Children’s Institute (IIN) which coordinates the Inter-American Programme.
More than 30 delegates from 12 regional states are attending the meeting, aimed at facilitating dialogue and discussions by the participants, to create a framework of regional cooperation and collaboration on issues pertaining to child protection, particularly relating to commercial sexual exploitation; identifying and adopting best practices; and sharing experiences.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter