252 children went missing between May and June; 164 back homeThursday, July 07, 2011
BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter email@example.com
A total of 252 children went missing between May and June of this year, and while 164 of them have since returned home, Health Minister Rudyard Spencer believes that those still missing could become victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
The minister's concerns were reiterated by Dr Kevin Harvey, acting director of health promotion and protection at the Ministry of Health and Environment, who presented a report on the minister's behalf during yesterday's regional meeting on Protecting Children of the Caribbean from Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
The meeting, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, saw representatives from the Child Development Agency (CDA), Planning Institute of Jamaica, Inter-American Children's Institute and the Organisation of American States (OAS) coming together to discuss ways to stem the sexual exploitation of children.
"Compared to 2010, the number of missing children for that period significantly increased from 163 to the present 252," said Spencer, who pointed out that of the 88 children still missing, 74 are females and 14 are males.
Sixteen-year-old Kadeem Simpson, Jamaica's child representative for the Inter-American Children's Institute, called the IIN, pleaded on behalf of his peers for policymakers to find effective ways to stop the wanton abuse of children.
Referring to Kevin Sean-Hamilton's (DJ Powa) sensational hit video, Nobody canna cross it, the Ardenne High School student expressed hope that those vested with the responsibility to protect our children will find more effective ways to do so.
"Mr Clifton Brown, the community member featured in the video, said 'nobody canna cross it', is only who can understand it. It is also hard for us to cross it and find solutions to these torrential acts of child abuse and exploitation. But Mr Brown gives me hope for even though he said that nobody canna cross it; he also added (that) it's only who that can understand it," the youngster said, while pointing out that the understanding of the problem will help to find solutions.
Despite the amendments of various legislation over the past few years to protect children, the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of the country's most vulnerable continues unabated. On Saturday, the nation was shocked by the news that the body of six-year-old Teonia Henry was found with her throat slashed and with several stab wounds after being reported missing the Thursday before. It is also believed that the child, who was found only wearing a pair of bloody underwear, might have been raped.
Just mere hours after police found Teonia's body, news surfaced of the brutal murder of 17-year-old Kingston College student Khajheel Mais who was allegedly shot in the head by the driver of a BMW sport utility vehicle when the taxi the youngster was travelling in hit the rear of the sports utility vehicle.
"The future of our nation is facing a dark end if more and more of us are unprotected and this really seems to be the case," said Simpson. He said that he became an advocate for the children of the nation after witnessing numerous cases of child abuse.
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, the minister of sports, youth and culture, and who has responsibility for gender affairs and children, also expressed concern for the future of the nation's children and pleaded with the driver responsible for Khajheel's murder to turn himself in.
"I urged the shooter, or as they say in Jamaica, the 'shotta', to recognise what he has done and to do the right thing by coming forward, and I call on anyone who knows anything to speak up. We owe it to Khajheel and we owe it to all our children to see that justice is done," she said.
Quoting statistics from the CDA, she pointed out that children under the age of 10 years accounted for 17 per cent of all sexual assault cases, while children between 10 and 19 accounted for 57 per cent of these types of assaults.