Failing the children once again? – By Yvonne Sam

Failing the children once again?

By Yvonne Sam

On May 25, 2010 the then President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo assented to the Sexual Offences Bill, a significant bill that included input from concerned citizens and schoolchildren. Within the said Bill are also provisions and penalty outlined for dealing with the media. It is clearly stipulated that if the media is irresponsible and if they put victims of sexual abuse through a second set of trauma after they’ve suffered these serious abuses, then they will pay the penalty too.     

Fast forwarding to the question raised in Kaieteur News June 29, 2017 by Hasani Tinnie, Communication Officer of Child Link (see letter below), as to the absence of a counsellor during the rescue effort, the answer does augur for a somewhat bumpy landing.  Basically, it is a superfluous question, as not only is Guyana a signatory on the Rights of the Child Convention, has its own laws on Sexual Abuse, but also clearly defined rules as to the expectation and conduct of the media.  When will Guyana get anything right? How long will it take the country to see the light? What then are laws for, if they are not being followed?

What was the reporter’s underlying motive for questioning the victims during such a traumatic period?  Was he assuring the public that he was in the loop by gaining first -hand scoop? Without a shadow of a doubt, he should be held accountable for violating the Bill and dealt with according to the law. The situation cries out for a revisiting of the existing Sexual Offences Bill by all concerned with rescuing our young from the new Guyanese pandemic—sexual abuse.  At the selfsame time it could serve as an opportunity for the government to initiate a —CHILD ABUSE RESCUE TEAM (C A R T ) comprising of all appropriate personnel involved in effecting humane rescue missions as outlined by the Geneva Convention of which Guyana remains a signatory.   The media must know its responsibilities and place in the grand scheme of things, especially in the fight for children’s’ rights.

Guyana is a signatory on the Rights of the Child Convention. According to Article 19, “State parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, mal treatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s), or any other person has care of the child.” Since these teenagers are both under the age of 18, they are classified as children under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Children should not be exposed to the questioning of a reporter in these rescue missions. What they need is the support of a counselor. We encourage the officers to ensure that a trained counselor from the relevant agency accompany them on future exercises and the press to act with greater care.

The public assenting to the Bill was attended by several Cabinet members, representatives of the judiciary and members of the diplomatic corps. There were also school children and other concerned citizens.
The Bill which was tabled in the National Assembly last year, spent nine months with a select committee and featured inputs from civil society.
It comes at a time when the administration is determined to stamp out the growing incidence of sexual violence perpetrated primarily on children and females.
In a feature address before he assented to the Bill, the Head of State said that it will add to the arsenal available to the nation to fight sexual predators in the society.

Yvonne Sam.  

 ———————————————————————–

June 29, 2017 – Kaieteur News – Letter to the editor by Hasani Tinnie

Acting with more sensitivity and in children’s interest

Dear Editor,
It is important to the wellbeing of our society that the media highlight social issues such as child sexual exploitation and abuse. Increased awareness of this scourge may prompt those responsible to do more and possibly effectuate change for the better. However, it is equally important that those involved in the rescue, investigations and reporting of child sexual exploitation and abuse cases do the right thing in the right way. Whatever actions are taken, the best interest of the child should be paramount.
On June 22, 2017, one of our prominent media houses reported the story of two teenage girls who were removed from a “sex camp” along the Amaila Falls access road, Kuribrong mining district, Region Eight. A team of officers received a tip that the two teenagers, ages 17 and 15, “were allegedly working and participating in sexual activities” at the camp. The 15 year old is below the age of consent so any adult who engaged in sexual activities with her is guilty of statutory rape. The 17 year old may be above the age of consent but the investigation could possibly reveal that she was coerced or forced into sexual activities while she was a minor. A thorough investigation may possibly confirm that these girls were being exploited for commercial purposes.
On the surface, the fact that this story was highlighted in the media is commendable. Additionally, the swift action by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) officers and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) ranks, rescuing the teenagers from the “sex camp” is commendable. More similar actions of this nature are needed to protect children, especially those in remote locations and should be coming from others in these communities and their leaders. Additionally, greater care is required to maintain the protection of children and providing the emotional care and support they need during these rescue missions and not being questioned by the press.
It is not clear why there was a reporter at the scene, directly asking the teenagers questions. Here is where a trained counselor should have been present as clearly this was a planned rescue mission. While this matter needs to be reported to the public, the rights of these teenagers and their dignity is important and garnering details from the girls should be done in a sensitive and ethical manner and by someone who is trained to address the issues of child sexual exploitation and abuse that will bring no further harm to the children.
Guyana is a signatory on the Rights of the Child Convention. According to Article 19, “State parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, mal treatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s), or any other person has care of the child.” Since these teenagers are both under the age of 18, they are classified as children under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Children should not be exposed to the questioning of a reporter in these rescue missions. What they need is the support of a counselor. We encourage the officers to ensure that a trained counselor from the relevant agency accompany them on future exercises and the press to act with greater care.
The ChildLinK and our partners in the Child Rights Alliance (CRA) commend the act of removing these girls by the GGMC and the GPF ranks from an environment where they were possibly abused. We commend the media for their interest in social issues and support their right to bring these matters to the public’s attention. We do, however, encourage these important stakeholders to act with more sensitivity and in the best interest of children in the future.

Hasani Tinnie
Communication Officer
ChildLinK Inc

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Comments

  • Hermina  On June 30, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Thanks Ms. Sam for speaking out against the continuing wrongs especially among the most vulnerable. Keep up the good work in telling it like it is, straight on your plate.

  • NADIRA UK  On June 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Well guyana has a pack of animals called paedo living there. Must be some one family who enjoys having sex with little helpless children who are unable to speak out because no one believe them

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