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Protect our children

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Another bit of disturbing news came in last Friday’s newspapers that many young girls are being ravished by older men and in some cases relatives. These, no doubt, would be persons in positions of confidence and trust from the perspective of the victim.

The abuse and exploitation of young children must come to an end. Children must be allowed to grow up with their innocence intact. Children should not be made to carry awesome burdens for experiences of this sort at that tender age they would no doubt be left with psychological scars that could plague them for the rest of their lives. It does the society no good to have bitter, angry women.{{more}}

The time has come for parents to be more vigilant. Parents are obligated to provide proper supervision for their children. If children have money and gifts that do not come from a legitimate source, there should be some investigation. Young children may be given goodies and money or issued threats for their silence. The offenders may appeal to children’s innocence and sense of trust by telling them that it is their little secret not to be shared with others. Children would be too ashamed to speak about such experiences.

If the home does not provide a safe haven then there must be a place where children could be encouraged to speak freely to trustworthy persons. This access is so important because in some cases the parents might not only refuse to believe but could be part of the problem. In an incident some time ago, a mother offered her 14 year old daughter to the man who had come to have sex with her one night. She negotiated a higher price than she had in the past received for her own services. Luckily the young girl was brave and strong enough to fight off the offender. But there are the weaker ones who may not be able to fight off the offenders or who may be duped by the lies of the offender.

A child has rights which must be respected, and these rights have been supported at the highest level by the United Nation. In the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924 and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Human Rights Declaration, consideration has been given to the rights of the child. The General Assembly passed Resolution 1386 (xiv) on November 20, 1959 by which it reaffirmed its faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person. It also proclaimed that by “reason of the physical and mental immaturity, special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth” must be provided to the child. In making this decision it gave consideration to the physical and mental immaturity of the child.

The United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was created in December, 1946 to help children all over the world. In 1953 its name was shortened to The United Nations Children’s Fund but the acronym remains. On September 2, 1990 the Conventions on the Rights of the child came into force. The convention sets out the rights of the child in 54 articles and two optional protocols. It includes the whole range of basic human rights for children every where. It recognizes the need to develop children to the fullest and to protect them from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation. Governments everywhere have been encouraged to incorporate the convention into their local laws.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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