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Children- The treasure of successive generations

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This month of April has been declared Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, and the Minister of Social Development, the Honourable Mike Browne, and his Permanent Secretary Rosita Snagg are asking the people of SVG to take more action to protect our children from abuse.{{more}}

How many times have we mouthed the words “children are our treasure” “children are our future,” but is there enough done to care for them and protect them from harm? The Permanent Secretary calls our attention to the statistics which suggest that not enough care is taken to protect our children. According to the report, there were 170 cases in which children were not provided with proper maintenance, 37 were abandoned, 78 were neglected, 30 were physically abused and 40 were verbally or emotionally or psychologically abused in 2008. And I am certain that there are many unreported cases.

It has been internationally recognized that because children are incapable of looking after themselves it is incumbent on the adult population to make a determined effort to protect and keep them safe from danger. The United Nations recognized the urgent need when it set up UNICEF to focus on the protection and survival of children around the world. Their rights are contained in the Convention of the Rights of the Child which is “a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations”. In its 54 articles and two optional protocols, it spells out “the basic rights to survival, to develop to the fullest, to protection against harmful influences, abuse and discrimination and to participate fully in family life, cultural and social life.”

Parents and teachers with whom children spend most of their time have an especially important role to play to make sure that children grow up in an atmosphere of love and care. Laws by themselves can not offer the total protection that children need. Every adult would know the vulnerability of human beings at this stage in their life, because it is a route which every one has travelled, although not everyone experiences the same trauma. Their fragility, the tender age are all important factors for adults to appreciate.

At present our laws relating to children are currently insufficient to ensure the care that children need taking into consideration our “socio-economic realities” and ‘in terms of the nature and dynamics of the situation of children”. It is in recognition of these elements that the OECS member states have developed harmonized model family legislation for the sub-region Child care is one of the important focuses.

Current laws have various definitions for the child. The child has been described as a person under the age of 14 years, and a juvenile is regarded as a person under the age of sixteen. Under the new OECS legislation, a child is a person under the age of eighteen years, although there are certain lines which are drawn within this broad group.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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