Belize was one of the first countries to sign the UN conventions on the Rights of the Child which is the most widely ratified convention in the world. This is testament to our country’s recognition of the importance of caring for our children and nurturing them to be responsible and productive citizens. This commitment obligated our Government to enact laws and policies that create the enabling environment for children to flourish. One of the obligations to our children is to protect them from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and neglect. Currently the Government is seeking to amend the laws to provide more robust protection for children and to close the gaps in the child protection system that have allowed violence against children to go unpunished and to be widespread. As a part of its mandate the National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) is also equally concerned with addressing the cultural beliefs and practices that enable the violations of children to continue. This is of grave importance as children reside in families and communities where these value systems govern the child’s life experiences. This is where a paradigm shift has to occur and it has to be our collective understanding that any abuse to any child (male or female) elicit a zero-tolerance response from the guardians of our children and the national child protection system. Complimenting the laws that are enacted the participation of the wider society will ensure that children truly realize their protection rights. For these reasons the recent commentary in the Amandala Newspaper of October 20th, 2013, written by Collin Hyde is extremely troubling to the NCFC. It is an example of the challenges the social sector encounters when attempting to change attitudes that allow children to remain vulnerable to violations of their person. We take notice of the article as the comments perpetuate gender discriminations about the status of women and men (and therefore girls and boys) in society and their accompanying value. These comments perpetuate stigma about rape and the trauma that it brings to its victims. These comments remove the culpability from perpetrators and downplay the gravity of sexual violations against children. Perhaps most disturbing is that the comments about “fair deterrent” suggest that there is a perceived hierarchy that can be placed on the sanctity and innocence of our children. These comments contradict the very principle of human and children rights which calls for non-discrimination and equity in the protection of the rights of children and establishes that these rights are inalienable, indivisible and universal to all. Most importantly it undermines the fight to end violence against children. If we are to live up to our commitments to children the participation of communities and families is pivotal. We urge those who hold positions and platforms that can be used to educate and inform to make a personal commitment to being informed and using their influence in positive ways. We urge the media to participate in the ongoing dialogue about protecting our children in a more substantive manner by using the responsibility they have to share information, to question and to investigate and to even constructively call to task the many players in the child protection sector. Be a voice on behalf of children and help create awareness of the issues that impact on our children’s lives. The NCFC also takes this opportunity to appeal to families to support the amendments to the Criminal Code and to commit to creating spaces where children can know they are nurtured and protected. It’s our collective responsibility to make Belize worthy of its children.
For any further information contact:
National Committee for Families and Children
62 Cleghorn Street