PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AGAINST VIOLENCE AND ABUSE IN BELIZE
Belize City, 10 October 2011 - UNICEF is extremely concerned about the increasing number of violent acts against children in Belize. According to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence: “No Violence against Children is Justifiable, All Violence against Children is Preventable.” Violence against children is a gross violation of children’s rights. Every child has the right to a life free from violence. Violence can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape, sexual exploitation, or homicide. It can happen in homes, institutions, schools, or within communities.
Evidence shows that violence can have serious short- and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences not only for girls or boys, but also for their families and communities. This includes increased risks for illness, including sexually transmitted diseases, psychological distress, stigma, discrimination and difficulties at school.
All the member states of the UN have committed to implement the recommendations of the UN Study on Violence. In view of this commitment, Belize as a country needs to take serious steps to implement fully the key recommendations of the Study. Belize must adopt a Plan of Action specifically on violence against children, with realistic and time-bound targets. This Plan of Action should be linked to the National Plan of Action for Children and should also be integrated into national planning processes. It should identify clear responsibilities of agency and coordination mechanisms that can bring multiple sectors together.
In effect, preventing and responding to violence against children should be everybody’s business. By preventing violence today, we help build a future where violence will no longer be tolerated. Parents, teachers and care-givers in Belize have an important role to play in detecting and reporting violence and abuse of children. . But most importantly, children need to have access to child-sensitive, affordable, high quality health, education and social services related to prevention of violence and abuse. To facilitate that, the Government needs to ensure that independent legal assistance for children and families, who have experienced violence, including psychological support, is made available and that people understand how to access these support services.
UNICEF has already begun taking actions on these areas with the Ministries of Human Development and Social Services, Education and Health to hasten the effort to strengthen inter-sectorial collaboration that will help to strengthen the protection system for children. A stronger protection system will ensure that safe, confidential, accessible and well-publicized channels for children, their representatives and others to report violence are made available and known.
The police and the judicial system also have an important role to play in the protection of children. They must work to enforce accountability of duty-bearers and end impunity for all of those who perpetrate violence against children.
As subjects of rights, children must be given first consideration. Children who are victims and witnesses are particularly vulnerable and need special protection, assistance and support appropriate to their age, level of maturity and unique needs in order to prevent further hardship and trauma that may result from their participation in the criminal justice process.
The media must also continue to work to protect child victims and witnesses even as they make visible the heinous acts of violence. They must maintain a high standard of evidence collection to ensure fair and equitable outcomes of the justice process. However, children should have their privacy protected as a matter of primary importance. Interference in the child’s private life should not be permitted. In order to avoid further hardship to the child, interviews, examinations and other forms of investigation should be conducted by trained professionals who proceed in a sensitive, respectful and thorough manner. Child victims should, wherever possible, receive reparation in order to achieve full redress, reintegration and recovery. Procedures for obtaining and enforcing reparation should be readily accessible and child-sensitive.
UNICEF is committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Study on violence against children. UNICEF will continue to support the Government of Belize in strengthening the child protection systems at national and local levels– including laws, policies, regulations and the provision of comprehensive services to child victims. UNICEF will also work with the National Committee on Families and Children (NCFC), the Office of the Special Envoy for Children, communities and the general public to raise awareness about all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation against children and address attitudes, norms and practices that are harmful to children.
For more information, please contact: