Youth and Culture Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna, says her Ministry has asked the Ministry of Justice to facilitate an audit and review of stipulated penalties for child abuse, outlined in laws governing the care and protection of the nation’s children.
The move, she said, forms part of measures coming out of a recent meeting between both Ministries, during which representatives discussed issues pertaining to the imposition of tougher and harsher penalties for persons convicted of child abuse.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Ministry’s New Kingston offices on Friday (June 1), she provided an update on issues related to the welfare of the nation’s children, Ms. Hanna disclosed that 990 cases of child abuse were reported to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) in March, and 1,037 in April.
She said that there seems to be an emerging culture of child abuse in the country and stressed the need for “serious convictions”, among other sanctions, for perpetrators of these abuses.
“We are seeing where children have a fear of talking about being abused, especially sexually abused. We have seen where many of them don’t see where it is wrong to have been touched in certain places. We feel that there is a lascivious kind of subliminal seduction that has pervaded the society and we are concerned about it,” the Minister said.
Ms. Hanna said reports from some parishes indicate that persons sexually abusing children are rarely convicted, noting that there are a “number of issues (and) cultural nuances that go along with that”.
“What is clear, however, is that we have to do an audit of the penalties associated with some of the legislation and we have met with the Ministry of Justice to ask them to go through some of the penalties, because we believe that an audit has to be done. While some are far-reaching…others are not, we believe, hard enough,” she asserted.
Ms. Hanna also advised that her Ministry was in discussion with the Ministry of National Security to “get a better understanding” of the dynamics pertaining to missing children and security measures to address this challenge.
“I have already written to the Minister of National Security (Hon. Peter Bunting) requesting the cooperation of the police, in this regard, and very soon I should be able to comment on it further,” she stated.
Meanwhile, with substantial penalties provided for violation of the child protection laws, Registrar at the Office of the Children’s Registry, Greg Smith, is calling for these to be enforced.
These penalties, he said, include: life imprisonment for carnal abuse, 10 years imprisonment for attempting to commit the offence, and a $500,000 fine or six months imprisonment for failure to report incidence of child abuse.
“So, what we want is the re-organizing of these policies and the enforcement of these laws,” Mr. Smith underscored.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter