UNICEF expresses concern about violence against children

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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TWENTY-EIGHT years after Jamaica adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), country representative for UNICEF Jamaica Mariko Kagoshima says the organisation remains “deeply and increasingly concerned” about the scope and impact of violence against the nation's children.

The CRC is a legally binding international agreement, setting out the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

“We are very alarmed by the rate at which children are being murdered. In 2018, 46 children were killed. From the start of 2019 to the 14th of November, 41 were murdered. This is beyond tragic. We are also very concerned that one out of four students, aged 13 to 15, are bullied at school and we are particularly concerned about two of the most widespread forms of violence against Jamaican children — violent discipline and sexual violence,” Kagoshima told the House of Representatives on Tuesday, hours shy of World Children's Day.

Her address to Parliament marked the 30th anniversary of the CRC, adopted by some 70 heads of government on November 20, 1989.

Kagoshima noted that violent discipline, which includes both physical and psychological punishment, affects eight in 10 children across the country.

She said while UNICEF recognises the need for children to be disciplined, non-violent methods should be administered.

According to Kagoshima, research and experience across the world prove that there are ways to raise respectful, well-mannered children without hitting or hurting them emotionally.

A poll conducted by UNICEF and the Office of the Children's Advocate through UNICEF's U-Report messaging platform, which connects the entity with youth between the ages of 13 and 29, revealed that 62 per cent of the 1,500 respondents disagreed with corporal punishment.

Only 17 per cent agreed with corporal punishment being the best way to discipline children.

“The majority said that talking to children and withdrawing privileges were the best methods. This is a very clear message,” said Kagoshima.

In the meantime, the UNICEF official said the organisation remains “distressed” by the prevalence of sexual violence against children.

One in four Jamaican adolescents experience sexual violence at some point in life. Boys are also violated, Kagoshima stated.

“We have heard too many horrific stories of children being sexually harassed, molested, assaulted and raped, almost always at the hands of the people they know and trust, not by strangers. Sexual violence happens far too often, affecting far too many children, for it not to be treated as an urgent national priority.

“UNICEF stands ready to support the Government of Jamaica, as well as NGO (non-profit organisation) and civil society partners, to address these significant challenges with greater urgency. We know that the impact of violence can be long-standing and far-reaching. It is widely proven in research that childhood trauma caused by violence has a range of detrimental effects that neither the development of our children or the development of the nation can afford,” Kagoshima told Parliament.


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