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Child Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean

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Many children in the Caribbean are being subjected to different forms of sexual abuse, and many of these cases go unreported. Abuse of children cuts across all social and economic spheres, but some groups of children, for example, children below the age of ten (10), children with disabilities, minority groups, orphaned children, street children and those whose parents are absent are more vulnerable and are at particular risk.

The legislation to adequately protect children was generally regarded as ineffective and was seen as being compounded by the failure of the criminal justice systems. The procedures for dealing with reports, systems for monitoring abuse and services to deal with the impact of disclosure are underdeveloped. In addition, it is reported that this area of work is not a high government priority and consequently the support agencies are under-funded and do not have adequate trained and skilled personnel to provide counselling and other therapeutic interventions to the victims of child sexual abuse and their families.

In addition to legal reform, there is need to develop communication strategies and tools to facilitate advocacy for 'Breaking the Silence'. Some Member States, for example Guyana have made strides in this direction and consideration should be given to making materials developed in these Member States available for adaptation and use by others.

Consideration should be given to one of the recommendations of the report (Overview of Child Sexual Abuse in CARICOM Member States, 2011) which makes reference to "reframing of sexual abuse at the policy level as a public health issue"; this will help to push the problem higher on the political agenda. Too often child sexual abuse is being considered and treated as a child rights issue and the health implications are often ignored. Issues of teenage and unwanted pregnancies, abortions, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol and substance abuse and suicidal behaviours are all health issues with costs implications for CARICOM States.



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