THERE is a renewed call for the Office of the Prime Minister to make pass laws to make the reporting of child abuse mandatory after a recent UNICEF study showed 78 per cent of adults would not report instances of child abuse because it is not their business.
Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye said she has raised the issue of mandatory reporting time even in the Parliament, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
“Does the OPM have any plans to make a provision in the law that would make a person in the community report child abuse? There is no law that makes it mandatory at this time,” Thompson-Ahye said at the first of a two-day virtual child abuse and awareness and prevention symposium on Saturday.
The symposium was hosted by the Medical Association (TTMA) North branch in collaboration with the Children’s Authority.
During the questions and answer session, Thompson-Ahye said in the Caribbean such incidences must be reported forthwith and carries a penalty for non-reporting,
“There are no such laws in TT although we say that we must (report cases). What is the OPM going to do about it?”
Webster-Roy said the OPM is in the process of reviewing all pieces of legislation pertaining to children to see if there are deficiencies and remedy them.
“Hopefully we will get to that place very soon as we have started the process.” ‘
Bertrand Moses, coordinator, Child Affairs Division, Office of the Prime Minister who also spoke at the symposium said a national child policy inter-ministerial committee, the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean, has been established to identify gaps in the laws and streamline some of the critical areas.
Webster-Roy, who lauded the timeliness of the symposium, said as startling as the revelation by the adults not to report is, what is even more worrying is the 35.8 per cent increase in reports of child abuse in 2020. Some 4,914 reports of abuse were recorded in 2020.
“This is unacceptable and requires immediate action. Now more than ever, the well-being of our children requires all of us, as part of the wider community, to step up, take responsibility and do what is necessary to keep them safe.
“Child abuse is everybody’s business,” she said.
Moses, a psychotherapist, said there is never a suitable time to ignore child abuse in any form.
He said reporting and detection could lead to prevention. He said stakeholders such as the TTMA are needed to educate their clients, patients and others so they could change their views.
In addition to the 78 per cent who refused to report because they did not consider it their business, he said the second common reason was fear of negative consequence of reporting, a belief that the process would take too long. “The fourth astounding reason that they would be embarrassed to step forward,” he said.
He quoted UNICEF’s executive director Henrietta Fore who said that children are the hidden victims of the covid19 as lockdowns and school closure are affecting their education, mental health and access to basic health services.
“The risks of exploitation and abuse are clear and imminent, what would you do to ensure you engage prevention in this effort?” he asked.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .