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Effects of child abuse in Jamaica

      DEFINITION OF TERMS

According to wikipaedia.com, a child is any human being under the age of 18 years unless the law of the country states that a child becomes an adult at an earlier age. The sexual age of consent is 16 years. A child under 12 years may not be employed except by a parent/guardian and the nature of the work should be light domestic, agricultural or horticultural. No child under the age of 12 years may be found guilty of any offence.
Child abuse is the physical psychological or emotional mistreatment as any act or series of acts or commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm or threat of harm to a child. Also, child abuse is harm to or neglect of a child by another person.

      INTRODUCTION

Jamaica Gleaner 2002, reported that child abuse constitutes any act that endangers or impairs a child's physical or emotional health and development. These maybe physical, sexual or verbal abuse. Sexual abuse is an abusive sexual experience. It may involve the use of physical force or mental manipulation. Verbal abuse includes name - calling, yelling, criticizing, mean humour - teasing. These may include phrases such as you're so stupid or you're worthless, which a parent may stay in state of anger but which has long lasting emotional and psychological effects on a child. Physical abuse is any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving or whipping.
Most child abuse occurs in a child's home, with a smaller amount occurring in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with.
Jamaican culture condones not sparing the rod and spoiling the child, most parent can admit to having spanked their children on a few occasions.

      INCIDENCE OF CHILD ABUSE IN JAMAICA

According to Byron Katy, CNN Reporter, January 25, 2009, the number of child abuse reports in Jamaica increased dramatically in 2008, the nations office of Children Registry reported. The office received 3,784 child abuse reports in 2007, a significant increase for a nation with a population of about 2.8 million.
Office of Children Registry told the Jamaican Government News Service (JIS),“that the people of Jamaica have become increasingly mindful of their legal responsibility to report such incidents”, and are increasingly concerned about child safety, given a recent trend of violence against minors in the country.
Furthermore JIS announced a police report issued late last year, that is between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2008, 73 children were murdered and 383 cases of carnal abuse were reported. In addition, Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne told JIS in an interview that flogging and other forms of physical abuse are part of Jamaican's culture.
Regarding official child abuse reports, Gleaner Editor's Forum, Mrs. Blaine said that there were close to 500 reported cases of rape against children in 2005. But Dr. Grace Kelly, the president of the association of Guidance Counsellors, insisted that reported rapes, against children do not reflect the real situation. “The actual figure is about six times the number of reported cases”, Dr. Kelly estimated. According to the Psychologist it is not only girls but boys too, who are subject of sexual abuse and many of these children without proper interventions will grow into dysfunctional adults. Sexual predators, Dr. Kelly said, used several sometimes ingenious methods to lure children. Mrs. Blaine said that information technology systems, including the internet, were now being used in Jamaica to lure sex victims.

      CASE STUDIES OF CHILD ABUSE IN JAMAICA

Gleaners Editor's Forum Mrs. Blaine related one recent case in which she became involved. “A Principal of a primary and junior high school in Kingston called to say that five teenage girls from her school, all under 16 years old, had been lured into oral sex during the middle of the day, having gone into a chat room and having apparently made a connection with some men through text messages”, she said.
Also, in another incident, Mrs. Blaine told how she was called by the parents of a six-year-old boy, distressed that her son had been molested by an older man at a private school. In another case, she said the mother of a 13 year old girl went home on Wednesday and found her in bed with a man. Also, there is another case of a small boy involved in bestiality with dogs and other sexual act at the home.
In July 2002, it was reported by the Jamaican Gleaner that Mr. Donovan Clarke severely beat his 12 years old daughter for failing to gain a place at a prominent high school in Kingston based on the GSAT.
However, many parents easily distinguish between what can be considered a severe beating and legitimate punishment.
Finally, there is another case of Mary Stevens, a mother of three she noted that although she condones beatings, she does not inflict wounds therefore she does not physically abuse her children. She explains that if any accidental injuries occurs, she apologises so that the child knows that it was not intended. Mary states that in the case of her children if she had to do it all over again, she would still bus' dem behind”. Stephanie Mary's older daughter agrees. She points out that though she was flogged, she doesn't think she was physically abused. She remarked that the punishment was always justifiable and never seemed arbitrary.

      THE EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE IN JAMAICA

The protection of Jamaican children from violence, abuse and exploitation in all its forms is one of the biggest challenges facing the nation. The high rate of crime and violence plaguing the Jamaican Society has had a devastating impact on children.
Over the past five years, more than 300 children, mostly boys, have been murdered, sexual crimes against children are rampant, with girls primarily the victims.
In 2006, children and adolescents made up an alarming 78 percent of all the sexual assault rape cases admitted to public hospitals. In the same year, girls under 16 years accounted 32 percent of all sexual assaults in Jamaica. Although legislation has banned the corporal punishment throughout early childhood and residential care institutions, it remains the dormant form of discipline in homes, as well as primary and secondary schools. Children regularly have their right to education and leisure activities disrupted because of violence in their communities and school closure due to civil disturbances and boys continue to underachieve making them more vulnerable to exploitation, violence and participation in gang activities.
As of March 2007, 5,835 children were living in residential care. Over 270 children live in correctional institutions. Many children who live in institutional care are growing up without family care, love and support and are often more vulnerable to abuse.

      GENERAL EFFECTS TO CHILD ABUSE
       IMMEDIATE EFFECTS

The immediate effects can be extremely serious especially in infants, where some of the serious injuries and fatalities results from shaking during the first 12 months of life. In both infants and older children, the effects of child abuse or neglect can be identified by the following signs

- PHYSICAL EFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE

- EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE

- SEXUAL EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE

- NEGLECT

- LONG RANGE EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE

      PREVENTION OF CHILD ABUSE IN JAMAICA

There are series of programmes mapped out in order to strengthen national and parish capacities to further reduce children's vulnerability to abuse, violence and any other form of exploitation and discrimination.
In particular the aim is to improve legal provision and enforcement mechanisms, set up national baseline against children, including gender-based violence, and strengthen society safety net through improved co-ordination, monitoring, referral of children in need of protection and improved access to quality care.
With a three-tier level of focus, the programme will support legislatives revisions, and comprehensive community based interventions, strengthen the delivery and access of services and ensure comprehensive monitoring and evaluation.
The programme will include the participation of adolescents in mediation and violence mitigation, and will encourage the participation of adolescents in their community lives.
Through public awareness campaigns, attitudes in favour of peaceful conflict resolution and positive disciplining of children will be promoted.
UNICEF will continuously advocate zero tolerance to violence against children including the ending of corporal punishment in primary and secondary schools.
Finally, there is a growing awareness that the office of the Children's Registry is the department responsible for tracking and acting on cases of child abuse and not other government or police agencies.
The law stipulates that “if someone has information of suspected child abuse and fails to make report to the Registry, that person can be charged a maximum fee of $500,000 or/and six months imprisonment”.

      CONCLUSION

Child abuse is inhumane and seriously have a devastating effect in children and as such must be stopped. All persons are being encouraged to be a part of this “Move” that will end this harmful act: Both parent, school mentors, non-governmental organizations and governments should actively play their part, especially as we look forward to commemorating the World's Child Abuse Day on 19th of November.