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Does the Caribbean Sanction Violence against Children?

The Caribbean's attitude to children continues to capture the attention of the blogosphere. The blog Code Red has been following stories about violence against children in three regional territories – Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – and begins its post by saying:

Recent stories in Caribbean media have highlighted the systemic rape of boys and girls in state care and the horror houses known as children’s homes. Getting raped while literally under the care and protection of the state is a reprehensible violation and denial of bodily autonomy. Fleeing sexual abuse is what gets many girls in juvenile correctional facilities locked up in the first place. The abuse survivors are criminalized and re-victimized. Far from seeking to prevent sexual assault, reports from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana suggest that such violations are widespread. Support services for sexual assault survivors are non-existent.

What are elected officials doing about this?

The post addresses the situation in each of the countries:

In Jamaica, the Minister responsible has branded the boys as criminals and practically blamed them for the state’s inability to offer adequate care. The media responded by laughing at the sexual assault of boys. The homophobia and heterosexism which serve to silence boys who are raped is reinforced in the reporting.

In Guyana, the Minister responsible told the public that the girls who say they have been sexually assaulted are ‘no angels', suggesting they should not be believed. He challenged the girls to bring proof of sexually assault and to make an official complaint. He also reminded the public that the ministry had spent money on a new fence for the property where the ‘inmates’ are housed.

In Trinidad, three boys appeared on television to break the silence on the abuse they suffered. They appeared on the exploitative TV show, Crime Watch. Sensationalist and predatory media is the only recourse many Caribbean people feel that they have in their demand for justice.

Code Red places the blame for incidents like these on the shoulders of the countries’ leaders, making the point that by their irresponsible comments and lack of action, they too are part of the engine of violence:

What is to be done about these obnoxious, visionless leaders who refuse to recognize the humanity of all our children? How do we hold them accountable not only for their vile comments about children but for their lack of effective policies to ensure children are adequately cared for and kept safe?

Our politicians have the guts to call poor boys criminals, to be oblivious and insensitive towards boys who have been sexually assaulted, to call girls who report rape ‘children with problems’ in an effort to silence them.

This is violence against children: brutal, systemic and state-sponsored.

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