Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley (right) and Chief Justice Marston Gibson were among those who signed their personal pledge at the launch of the Break the Silence initiative. (C. Pitt/BGIS)
Government is working assiduously to establish a Mandatory Reporting Protocol to deal with child sexual abuse cases. It is also in the process of reforming all of its laws pertaining to children and families.
Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this assertion at the launch of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Breaking the Silence campaign at the Barbados Hilton, last night.
The initiative is a multi-pronged campaign that is designed to protect children against sexual abuse. It aims to break the stigma surrounding the issue and to encourage victims and their families to speak out and denounce sexual abuse. At the same time, it is also directed at policy-makers, health workers and law enforcement officials to support them in creating the protection and treatment services needed to care for victims.
Mr. Lashley told a room full of delegates and officials that included Chief Justice Marston Gibson; representatives from CARICOM; regional ministers with responsibility for child protection; and members of the legal fraternity, that by early 2013, he would take to Cabinet recommendations for drafting instructions to enhance the existing legislation, in order to offer greater protection to children.
The Minister urged the delegates to move swiftly, in their respective territories, to put in place the necessary laws so they could take the appropriate action when cases of child sexual abuse were reported.
"There must be an improvement in our Juvenile Justice System and, particularly, in the operations of our Family Courts. Too often, across the region we do not have the resources to have dedicated, fully specialised Family Courts.
"We must put mechanisms in place to have mandatory reporting of all incidents of child sexual abuse; and no parent, particularly mothers should be afraid to believe their children if they are told that someone within the household has touched them inappropriately; forced them to perform an act of gross indecency, or has raped or sodomised them," Mr. Lashley said.
He added that by signing on to the Break the Silence campaign, Ministers of Govenment and Civil Society leaders, were signaling their commitment to ending child sexual abuse. However, Mr. Lashley challenged them to be vigilant by ensuring the necessary mechanisms were in place to protect children and to become advocates against sexual violence against children.
The featured speaker for the evening, Ms. Karlyn Percil of St. Lucia, – a survivor of child sexual abuse, implored participants to take individual responsibility for speaking out on child sexual abuse, in support of other survivors and as part of efforts to end this scourge.
Guests were invited to sign personal pledge cards to record their individual commitments to action on speaking out against child sexual abuse.