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A Call to Immediate Action - Stop the Violence Against our Children

Georgetown, Guyana, November 12, 2007– The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today expressed outrage and continued concern at the recent upsurge in violence and abuse, specifically sexual abuse  perpetuated against our children.

Following the news of sexual acts allegedly committed on boys of the Ketley Primary School and coming on the heals of the announcement of the death of nine year old school girl Sade Stoby, of Mocha on the East Bank of Demerara, who was raped and murdered, Representative of UNICEF Mr. Johannes Wedenig, condemns in the strongest possible terms these horrific assaults, and in general, child abuse cases that now pervades our communities.

Mr. Wedenig referred to a statement made by Minister of Labour,  Human Services and Social Security, Ms Priya Manickchand, just last week when she implored residents of Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) to help in stamping out this scourge, saying that curbing sexual violence is the responsibility of every one. He said, it is now time for us all to realize that sexual violence is every body’s business, especially since recent reports have revealed that most of the acts of sexual violence are committed by persons close to children whom they trust. This is what makes it even more appalling and challenging.

The UNICEF Representative said more needs to be done to combat this rising epidemic and referred to the UN Secretary General’s Global Study on Violence Against Children, launched in November 2005 which states that, eliminating and responding to violence against children is perhaps most challenging in the context of the family, considered by most as the most ‘private’ of private spheres.”   Further, studies have also shown that children who have experienced violence are more likely to perpetuate violence in their adult life.

According to Wedenig the follow up report to the UN Secretary-General’s Global Study on Violence against Children recently made public, marks a turning point in the multidimensional response on violence against children and looks at bringing an end to adult justification of violence against children.  “There can be no compromise in challenging violence, no violence against children is justifiable, and all violence against children is preventable,” he emphasized.

We know that sexual abuse worldwide is under reported, and Guyana is no exception, and so the cases reported here may very well be just the tip of the ice-burg.  Nevertheless, in a recent survey of Caribbean school children, about 11% girls and 9% children reported that they had been sexually abused including through incest. 40% of the girls surveyed reported their first sexual initiation was forced.  

 “We have to view this as a call to action for all of us, everyone - the Government, the private sector, NGOs, civil society and religious  organizations, all citizens of Guyana  - we have to ensure appropriate actions, systems and strategies are in place for our children to be protected.  Not one more child should have to face such horrendous circumstances at the hands of inhuman perpetrators, not one more parent should have to mourn the premature passing of a child under such gruesome circumstances, if we all heed a call to action to help in providing an enabling society in which our children can live and grow to reach their full potential,”  he said.

In this regard UNICEF recognizes and fully supports the Government of Guyana and other partners in their efforts to protect children. Further UNICEF commends the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security on the recent launch of the “Stamp It Out” consultation paper which outlines a number of initiatives aimed at strengthening protection against sexual violence and reform the law on sexual offences.    In this process we cannot over emphasize the critical role of law enforcement officers in dealing professionally with very sensitive cases of abuse and our Judicial system in ensuring speedy processes in a child friendly environment.

A signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Government of Guyana has agreed to assume responsibility of protecting children from violence and ensuring that they grow up in a protective environment.  The greatest challenge at this point, however, is to have a collective and sustained approach by all sectors of society in transforming our communities into  safe environments, conducive to holistic growth and development of young people.

UNICEF reiterates its commitment to working alongside Government and other organizations. We believe that it remains necessary to create a culture of prevention of all forms of child abuse, to mobilize public response, galvanise civil society, parents, guardians and children themselves to be unequivocal in their condemnation of violence and child abuse and step up work to disseminate prevention programmes.

We express sincere condolences to the family of Sade Stoby and all other families and children who have suffered the consequences of violence in all its forms. 

For more information
Johannes Wedenig, jwedenig@unicef.org, UNICEF Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname
Doris Roos, droos@unicef.org, UNICEF Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname
Leslyn Thomson, lthompson@unicef.org, UNICEF Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

 

 
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