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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has commended the Government for establishing the national task force to explore and recommend short and long term initiatives to curtail and reduce violence against children in Jamaica.
Prime Minister, Bruce Golding established the committee more than two weeks ago, following concerns raised by various private and public sector interests over the alarming increase in the incidence of crime and violence being committed against the nation’s youngsters.
Speaking at the third Caribbean Child Research Conference on Tuesday (Oct. 20) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge in Jamaica, Nada Marasović, noted that Jamaica, like a number of other countries, is “struggling to come to terms with the latest wave of attacks against children, which have taken on a degree of brutality that shocks even the most seasoned professionals.”
“Right across the Caribbean, and Latin America – a region with the highest rate of armed violence in the world, with 42 per cent of all homicides globally -, violence is taking a devastating toll on children and their families,” Ms. Marasović said.
The UNICEF representative described the sexual abuse of children in Jamaica as “particularly alarming,” noting that statistics compiled in 2006 revealed that, over 1,700 children were victims of major crimes committed in Jamaica during that year, which included rape.
She said that according to the Ministry of Health and Environment’s 2006 annual report, 78 per cent of the 1,509 victims of sexual assault, who were referred to health facilities, were children and adolescents, zero to 19 years, with six per cent being boys, and the remainder, girls.
“According to the report, very young children, mostly girls, were sexually abused in 2006 – 76 children, between ages zero to four, 85 per cent of them girls, and 170 children, aged five to nine years, and 84 per cent of them girls. In that same year, only 20 per cent of rape cases were reported to the police.”The fact that we can paint such a detailed, if disturbing, statistical picture of the problem, speaks to the significance of having solid data. Most of you fully understand why it is so hugely important to collect and use data effectively, and to ensure that the planning and implementation of policies and programmes are data-driven and evidence-based,” Ms. Marasović stressed.
She said that against the background of the data provided, the establishment of the task force is timely, and urged that as the group collaborates with concerned citizens, child-focused agencies, and other private and public sector entities, to find long-term sustainable solutions, that their work be guided by evidence-based analysis.
“We must continue to help those in positions of decision-making and influence, to appreciate this fact. We must continue to ensure that research on children’s issues, serves as the basis for the kind of advocacy, policies, and programmes, that will make a lasting impact on the lives and welfare of our children and their families,” Ms. Marasović underscored.
The two-day regional interdisciplinary conference, which was held on October 21 and 22 under the theme: ‘Promoting Child Rights through Research: Building a Region Fit for Children’, was attended by over 100 participants from Jamaica, the Caribbean, North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. It aimed to share research findings on children throughout the region, as well as strengthen the network of researchers on issues affecting them.
The conference was staged by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Child Development Centre, and the Office of the Children’s Advocate.