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Violence against children high on the political agenda in Jamaica

© UNICEF video
Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, one of the world’s leading experts on violence against children, adressed the Jamaican Parliament yesterday.

By Chris Niles

KINGSTON, Jamaica, 27 February 2008 – Violence against children was high on the political agenda in Jamaica yesterday as Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, urged the Jamaican Parliament to do all it can to end the cycle of violence that’s blighting children’s futures.

Prof. Pinheiro, author of the 2006 UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, used the rare opportunity to tell Members of Parliament that dealing with violence against children is the first step in lowering Jamaica’s high crime rate.

‘Violence breeds more violence’

“In an environment where violence breeds more violence, the ways in which Jamaican children are subjected to violence are inextricably linked to the unrelenting levels of crime and violence affecting the island,” he said.

Violence is an everyday reality for most Jamaican children. A recent study showed that only 28 per cent of children consider their neighbourhoods safe.

Prof. Pinheiro said Jamaica has made important progress, both with its Child Care and Protection Act and a draft National Plan of Action, which he urged the government to adopt and move forward with this year. 

© UNICEF video
Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro (right) at the Jamaican Parliament.

Clear and objective laws

“No form of violence, however light, is acceptable under international law,” he said. “If we want to protect children from all kinds of violence we must have clear and objective laws prohibiting the use of violence in all situations, including inside homes and schools.”

Listening to Prof. Pinheiro’s speech was a class from Montego Bay High School, which had travelled for three hours to see their Parliament at work.

“Violence against children is changing the way our children behave – in our homes, in our society and in our schools,” said Camelia Hinds, 16. She added that Prof. Pinheiro “wants to get the Parliament involved in changing, and I think that’s really a good idea.”

Resolving disputes peacefully

Earlier in the day, Prof. Pinheiro visited Tower Hill, an area of Kingston that has suffered from gang violence. There he met Moira Morgan, Director of the Griffin Charitable Trust, which supports children and has had success in encouraging gang members to resolve disputes peacefully.

“I was very impressed at the work that the community itself is doing,” Prof. Pinheiro said. “I think the lesson is that you don’t need millions to change the life of people in these communities.”




26 February 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro's visit to Jamaica, where he addressed Parliament.
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