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Child rights advocate: It’s time for action

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Child rights advocate Hazel Thompson-Ahye does not believe enough has been done to protect children. She said recommendations made for child protection by the UN Child Rights Committee had not been addressed. She added: “The committee made recommendations since 1997 after reviewing our initial report on measures we put in place to implement child rights since ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.



“They were designed to help us treat better with children. The committee identified matters, such as education and training of all professional groups working with or for children. “They recommended laws be enacted to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings and to prevent mental and physical torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of children.


“They were concerned about insufficient awareness and information on ill-treatment and abuse of children, including sexual abuse, both within and outside the family, and the lack of measures and mechanisms to prevent and combat them.” Thompson-Ahye said one of the areas the committee asked for attention to be paid to was the minimum age of marriage. “But we do not have the political will to deal with that issue,” she added. She said another area of legal deficiency was juvenile justice. 


“We are limited in the availability of diversionary measures that will prevent child offenders coming into contact with the judicial system. “Had we implemented the committee’s recommendations, many of which they repeated after reviewing our second report in 2006, we would not be in this sorry state that we find ourselves in today,” she added.


Thompson-Ahye said the Children’s Authority needed greater financial and human resources but essentially it needed courage to advocate for vulnerable members of the society who were the raison d’etre for its existence, children who could not agitate for their needs, could not vote, could not finance a political campaign, and were without a voice. 


She added: “If the members of the authority cannot have a robust voice to force the Government to act, they are failing in their duty. This is not time for polite and quiet diplomacy. Enough is enough. This is time for action. “In 2008/9, when the first authority was named, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt made a call for it to be properly resourced. 


“In 2012, a new authority was appointed. In May this year, at a child abuse seminar at the Hyatt, Mahabir-Wyatt again called for action. Indeed, she called for a ‘revolution’ to force the government to properly resource the authority. “She advocated that we ‘protest for children’s rights in the same way that we protest over bad roads and lack of water.’”


Thompson-Ayhe said the committee on the Rights of the Child in 2006 recommended that T&T should “prioritise budgetary allocations to ensure the implementation of the rights of children to the maximum extent of available resources. “Was this done? Surely not. Children are not a priority in our country and it is time we recognise and correct this,” she added 



She said an important role of the authority was “to act as an advocate to promote the rights of the child. Surely, more can be done on that score as, generally, no financial outlay is required to do so.”


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