Youth and Culture Minister, Hon. Lisa Hanna, is calling for all Jamaicans to rally around the protection of the nation’s children.
Noting the alarming number of cases of abuse, especially sexual abuse, she said that there can be no letting up of efforts.
“We cannot afford to get tired of this fight. Each day we have to find the will, the courage, the resolve… to deal with these issues…Our children deserve no less, and it is an absolute prerequisite for the future success and development of our nation,” she said.
Ms. Hanna was speaking Thursday May 17, at the launch of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) 5th anniversary publication and child participation programmes at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston.
She said that since the creation of the OCR, there has been a “frightening jump” in the number of reported cases of abuse. She said that “while the data indicates a welcome improvement in the culture of reporting, it sends the unmistakable signal that something is wrong."
Statistics from the OCR indicate that for 2011, there were 2,671 reported cases of sexual abuse, and 1,783 cases of physical abuse. In addition, there were 3,562 cases of neglect; 839 incidents of emotional abuse; 78 reports of child labour; and one report of child trafficking 1.
Ms Hanna said that a closer look at the figures indicates a predominance of abuse of girls.
She noted that while many legislative and institutional successes have been achieved in child protection, and significant investment of resources has been made by the government and the private sector, more needs to be done in protecting the nation’s children.
“We have to mobilize and galvanise entire families, communities and the nation in a coordinated national crusade and mission to protect our children .We have to invest more resources in child protection and development. We have to create greater efficiencies in the national system of child protection and get some more measurable results from the investments that have been made,” she stated.
She challenged the OCR to find new ways of sensitising the nation about the importance of not only reporting child abuse, but preventing its occurrence.
She also pointed to the need to scale up parenting education, noting that this must become a central part of the formal and informal curriculum.
Ms. Hanna commended the management and staff of the OCR for the critical role they have played, and continue to play, in the protection of the nation’s children.
Registrar at the OCR, Greig Smith, pledged that the office will continue to “break the silence” on the issues facing the nation’s children.
The OCR, a statutory body under the Ministry of Youth and Culture, was established in January 2007 under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) 2004, and is responsible for receiving reports of child abuse and recording, assessing and referring them to the Child Development Agency (CDA), Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), for investigation and action.
The Children’s Registry has been playing a crucial role in capturing incidents of child abuse. Since its inception, it has received over 25,000 reports, with more than 7,000 reports estimated to have been received in 2011.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter