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40% jump in child sex abuse

Minister says child sex abuse a national crisis

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014    

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THERE has been a big jump in child sex abuse cases, statistics from the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) have revealed.

According to the OCR, some 1,968 children under the age of 16 were reportedly sexually abused during the first six months of 2013. Of this amount 1,968 cases 1,808 of the cases were girls and 155 were boys. The sex of the other five were not revealed. Majority or 1,085 of the children were carnally abused, while another 57 were victims of buggery. In addition 196 were raped, 193 children were fondled, and 55 children were victims of incest. The OCR also reported that 61 minors were subjected to oral sex and 10 were victims of exhibitionism.

The figures, the latest available data, represents a 40 per cent increase over the 1,402 cases reported over the corresponding period in 2012.

The spike in the number of child sex abuse cases was Tuesday described by Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna as a national crisis.

"The Ministry of Youth and Culture [and] all its agencies charged with providing services to the nation's children are deeply troubled by the acts of depravity which continue to be committed against our children in their homes and communities and the severe psychological trauma they are suffering as a direct result of the violation of their rights," Hanna told a press conference at her ministry in Kingston.

Hanna lamented that parents have reneged their duty and warned that if that component of childcare was not dealt with urgently the situation will only continue to deteriorate.

According to Hanna, the Child Development Agency in 2013 conducted 121 parenting workshops across the island to help some 1,485 parents fulfil their responsibilities effectively.

But she insisted that neglectful parents must be held accountable through a strengthened Child Care and Protection Act. "The law is currently under review and recommendations have been made to allow the court to apply a range of sanctions for parental neglect, including parenting classes, counselling, mediation and other stronger measures," Minister Hanna told reporters

The OCR report also showed that there was a 102 per cent increase in reports of child labour during the first half of 2013, when compared to the previous year. The parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, and St Ann accounted for 64 per cent of all cases of child labour, it said.

At the same time, the registry reported that 1,546 had been subjected to physical neglect -- inadequate food, clothing or lodging; inadequate medical care; inadequate supervision and abandonment -- and 1,284 children had been subjected to educational neglect in the first half of 2013.

Last year, 2,205 children were reported missing. Of that number, 1,725 returned home, while 369 were still listed as missing. Fourteen of those missing children were found dead.

Two girls, the OCR said, were victims of human trafficking in the first half of 2013, while a total of 2,300 were deemed as being in need of care and protection.

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