As Guyana observes Child Protection Week this year a number of issues relating to children were brought to the fore. This year’s observance is themed, “Partnering with families and communities for positive outcomes for children”. Prior to the dawn of the week’s observances, the issue of a 13-year-old boy being raped and murdered had already stirred up discussions about families’ and communities’ role in protecting children. The death of the teen sent shock waves through Guyana because of the heinous nature of the crime and in retrospect, everyone in his immediate environs began speaking up about instances of a similar-but-not-so-deadly nature. However, it is sad that it took the death of a child for persons to truly speak up about sexual offences in that and surrounding communities.From data released this week by the Child Care and Protection Agency, there were 424 cases of child sexual abuse reported with reports indicating the figure might not represent the complete extent of the problem, since the crime is a hidden one which goes unreported in many instances.There is a proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning a child becomes a more healthy and rounded adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the upbringing of the child. This speaks directly to strong community ties and trust. However, when child molesters lurk in the very communities and persons fall prey to “covering up” instances of abuse, then the fabric of that concept of a “village” that children need is destroyed.As a result of globalisation, today we are faced with instant information in a fast-paced high-pressure world leaving children with a myriad of challenges and opportunities alike. As such, navigating parenting can be a daunting undertaking and as such, there is more need for the “village” as partners in parenting. As such, it takes a “village” to look out and keep an eye on children for potential dangers when they are walking along the streets, playing in the communities, engaging in social activities or simply taking an afternoon stroll.There is further need for community members to work along with the Guyana Police Force and even local neighbourhood authorities in making enquiries when they notice suspicious activities with children to safeguard and secure their welfare.The Police should be duty-bound to report to its hierarchy any instance where families, relatives, and neighbours attempt to “settle” matters of a sexual nature involving children rather than face the law.The crime against 13-year-old Leonard Archibald has brought to the fore again the need for a Sex Offenders Registry. This will enable parents to know who the sex offenders in their communities are and will also provide for the Police to better manage convicted sex offenders in the hopes of keeping children safe.However, for this to happen, there is a pressing need for the court to process cases more swiftly as has been called for by the Women and Gender Equality Commission (W&GEC). The laws of Guyana cater for such a registry and to its credit, the Child Care and Protection Agency has been calling for this for quite some time now. The time is long overdue for this to become a reality. Let’s not wait for another child to suffer for us to get a wake-up call about the need for a “village” to raise a child.
10 February 2020
20 January 2020
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