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OUR CARIBBEAN: Coping with rights of children

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Coping with rights of children

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The brief news item out of Kingston earlier in the week that the government will seek parliament’s approval during the current session to enter into the United Nations Optional Protocol that prohibits sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, sent me thinking on two questions of relevance.
First, why has it taken this long for Jamaica to pursue this very encouraging course of action, and secondly, how many of the other 13 independent member countries of our Caribbean Community are yet to do likewise ?
After all, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, from which that protocol draws its strength, came into force some 11 years ago this month. Governments across this and other regions of the world had demonstrated much interest in sensitizing the public about the “child rights package” as completed by the UN.
But there is the related question of what effective arrangements are to be introduced to ensure that once parliamentary approval has been obtained by governments – and unanimity can be expected – that implementation would not be lacking while children become victims of human trafficking, sex slaves, or are exploited in the criminal business of pornography.
Enacting the optional protocols into domestic law is admirable, but having the mechanisms in place for effective implementation, including decent, professional policing arrangements, is a quite different challenge.
Think, for instance, of ongoing controversies over lapses in dealing with trafficking in persons – children and women in particular – plus the mind-boggling trade in illegal drugs (primarily marijuana and cocaine), as well as in gunrunning to help sustain the illicit narco-trade.
As if in despair, the Jamaica Observer thought it relevant to warn in an editorial earlier this week: “It’s time to be afraid of our children”. It was prompted by statistics released by the local National Council on Drugs Abuse of a high rate of suicidal tendencies and bullying of students between the tender ages of seven and 12.
When children learn of the bad habits of parents and/or guardians, they simply add to societal challenges in ethical, moral  behaviour by their often frightening rebellious attitudes which, as data could also establish, at times have tragic fatal consequences.
Think again of the agony some Barbadian families also had, or have, in coping with sexual assaults of their children at even primary schools, in addition to students being found with guns and knives in classrooms of schools across the Caribbean in the face of declining morality and spirituality – for which parents/guardians and, in some cases, teachers cannot honestly escape sharing some responsibility.
In the circumstances, when I came across a news report earlier in the week that the administration of St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas was moving to enact laws to make it illegal for “underage” children (read that to mean below 18 years) to show up at night clubs, I had to resist the cynicism and generate hope for some positive responses.
Stopping these “underage” sons and daughters (or grandchildren) from turning up at night clubs (even with adult family members) may be well intentioned.
But what of the capacity, the disposition by parents/guardians to engage in even limited monitoring of television viewings at home? Or curbing the unrestricted social habits they are too frequently permitted to indulge in under the questionable guise of  “rights” they too often abuse?