Recently the society was shocked to its core by a number of disturbing incidents which have reinforced and highlighted the sad state of affairs of the nation’s children, the plight of our women and the elderly. In the first instance a fifteen year old boy who has been a ward of the state since the age of eight was repeatedly raped, beaten and verbally abused by older boys in at least seven children’s home he has lived. Additionally, the youngster reported that he has been verbally abused by employees at the various place of safety he has lived. The fact that he is a ward of the state should not subject him to being sexually and verbally abused. This is a national disgrace! We need to ask ourselves how many more boys and girls have suffered similar fates in our places of (danger) since it is very clear no safety is guaranteed in such institutions.
Equally disturbing was the response from the state agency in response to the boy’s frequent incidence of absconding from these places of safety. The Child Development Agency (CDA) is reported as saying” his frequent absconding continues to expose him to abuse”.
The facts are whether the youngster was on the road or in a place of safety he was sexually abused. A place of safety is supposed to protect and care for children who are placed in their care. Is it unacceptable that employees of any children’s home are abusing children under their supervision! The state needs to move now to order an audit of all places of safety to determine the level of abuse both current and as well as those in the past and put measures in place to strengthen the check and balances to ensure this predatory practice be stopped.
Something is clearly not right regarding the cavalier response of the Child Development Agency (CDA) to the suffering and obviously frustration of this youngster. It’s all very clear that more social workers are needed to adequately monitor the operations of these places of safety. It’s also very clear that more children’s officers are required to see to the welfare of those children who have been abandoned or those children who parents are unable to care for them.
The incidence as reported by the youngster speaks to the bigger issue of sexually bullying which is very prevalent and pervasive in many of our institutions. Sexually bullying involves comments, jokes, actions or attention that is intended to hurt, offend or intimidate another person. Obviously sexually bullying is a common feature of most of our places of safety and we need to move urgently to address this matter.
All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse regardless of sexual orientation, ethnic origin, gender and socio-economic background. The focus of sexually bullying is usually on body parts, as well as, the victim’s appearance and or perceived sexual orientation.
The second incident deals with the seemingly easy access our children have to places of adult entertainment. Why is it that our children particularly boys are allowed access to exotic clubs? Why is it that the operators of such places do not put in place a system where identification cards are required before entry is permitted? Why is it that the police are not required to do unannounced raids at these places of adult entertainment?
There are too many children working in and gaining entry to these entities which clearly are for adults over the age of eighteen years. There is an urgent need for more structured and for more monitoring to be in place to avoid our youngsters from being abused and sexually exploitation. Our children are already living in world where they are constantly being bombarded by sexually images symbolism. There is no need to rush our children into becoming adults. Children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood and maintain their innocence.
The third incident of immense disturbance is of the recent beheading of a pregnant woman in the Mountain View area of Kingston. Not only was this heinous and ghastly act committed against this mother of six children. Imagines of the dead woman have been circulating across social media. It has been reported that some of her children have been showed the image of their dead mother. In fact many school aged children have been passing on the picture of this dead woman to their friends and associates.
Why are we as a society so fascinated with the horrors surrounding death? Why are we exposing our children to this most graphic of images of a beheaded human being?
Yet we wonder why it is that some of our children cannot learn. Just imagine the trauma, emotionally and psychological damage that accompanies and stays with one who is a close friend or family of the deceased. Viewing such a picture must have a long lasting effect for anyone especially for any child to see his/her mother in such a position (headless).
The state should move at once to provide counseling as well as other critical support for the children of this deceased woman. It’s a shame where we have reached as a society. There is hardly any respect for life and or property. Justice is fast slipping away for the average Jamaican. We live in a society where justice is dependent upon the depth of one’s wallet.
We need to protect our children at all cost. Our human resources especially our children are our greatest assets. Clearly more can and needs to be done to foster a culture of safety for all our children. It is imperative that more background checks be done on individuals who apply to work with children.
A licensing and registration programme for all employees of children’s homes and indeed nursing homes should become a best practice and common feature of the Jamaican state. The recent rape of a sixty nine year woman at an Infirmary in Saint Mary has exposed the lack of security measures at our nursing homes and infirmaries.
We need to create a society that is equitable for all Jamaicans, a society in which every Jamaican physical and psychological safety is guaranteed and assured.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.