Yet another startling disclosure on children in Guyana was made by the Social Protection Ministry on Sunday with a report compiled by the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) that 3129 children in Guyana faced some type of abuse in 2020.
More startling is the fact that high on the types of abuse are sexual abuse and neglect. In the high category of sexual abuse, the CCPA found that 688 girls were sexually abused, with 382 between the ages of 14 and 18 being abused at home. Astonishing also is the fact that many of these girls were violated and abused by persons brought into the homes, especially by their mothers. Another 632 girls faced neglect, while 258 were physically abused, 104 were verbally abused, 12 witnessed abuse and four were abandoned. The 8-13 age group had the highest percentage of abuse victims with 579, followed by the 14-18 age group with 544, then the 4-7 age group with 288, and the 0-3 age group with 287.
Globally, staggering numbers of children are experiencing violence, in varied forms, often by those entrusted to take care of them. While girls are predominately the victims of sexual abuse, boys too experience abuse as well. The most recent report by CCPA also revealed that 1431 boys were abused with 751 of them neglected. This type of abuse was prevalent among boys between the ages of 0 and 13, accounting for 674 of the victims. Another 432 boys experienced physical abuse, 127 were sexually abused, 102 were verbally abused, 10 abandoned, and nine witnessed abuse.
The figures in relation to this level of abuse are shocking and it is quite clear that Government and international partners need to keep the issue on the front burner where it is always treated as a matter of serious concern. However, more alarmingly, 42 per cent of the 2822 perpetrators who committed these heinous acts were mothers. The records showed that many of them physically abused their children. CCPA records also revealed that 596 fathers and 172 grandparents numbered among the abusers.
In its quest to end violence against children, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had made several recommendations, which if taken seriously could go a far way in protecting our children. Among the recommendations are: i) Adopting well-coordinated national action plans to end violence against children – incorporating education, social welfare, justice and health systems, as well as communities and children themselves. ii) Changing behaviours of adults and addressing factors that contribute to violence against children, including economic and social inequities, social and cultural norms that condone violence, inadequate policies and legislation, insufficient services for victims, and limited investments in effective systems to prevent and respond to violence. iii) Focusing national policies on minimising violent behaviour, reducing inequalities, and limiting access to firearms and other weapons. iv) Building social service systems and training social workers to provide referrals, counselling and therapeutic services for children who have experienced violence. v) Educating children, parents, teachers, and community members to recognise violence in all its many forms and empowering them to speak out and report violence safely. vi)Collecting better disaggregated data on violence against children and tracking progress through robust monitoring and evaluation.
Children, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural or social backgrounds, deserve to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and are part of loving and nurturing families.
We, therefore, support the Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud’s impassioned plea to mothers – who may be driven by economic hardship and financial opportunism –- to “be very careful of the persons that you let into your homes…you are exposing your children to an unknown, and you’re placing your children sometimes in harm’s way. Be very conscious of your child’s whereabouts and with whom you leave your child with.”