Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley (centre), listens attentively as Regional Director of UNICEF/TACRO, Bent Aasen, makes a point. At left is UN Resident Coordinator in Barbados, Michelle Gyles McDonnough. (A. Miller/BGIS)

A Government Minister believes that the battle against child sexual abuse must be fought on an integrated platform.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day United Nations Conference, on Combating Child Sexual Abuse, Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, said practitioners, front line workers, policy makers and Members of Parliament who represented the political will, needed to apply a multi-sectoral response to the management and prevention of the growing scourge.

Mr. Lashley emphasised that as the dynamics of childhood changed, so should the strategies for fighting child sexual abuse.

The Minister told delegates, who included Ministers with responsibility for child protection from around the Caribbean, along with experts in law, policy reform and health, that they all had one common goal – to help the region’s children who were victims of sexual abuse.

He said the practice had moved from being "a rather secretive and socially unspeakable act" to one that had gained public attention in the last few decades and was now a high profile crime.

"Since the 1970s, the sexual abuse of children and child molestation has increasingly been recognized as deeply damaging to children, and therefore unacceptable to society.?? It has now become the object of significant public attention.?? Child sexual abuse impacts not only the child, but the family and society as a whole.??

As a phenomenon which has touched many lives, the sexual victimisation of children is ethically and morally wrong and its effects extend beyond childhood.

"Child sexual abuse is a very serious problem within the region and throughout the world. According to a 2009 report published in the Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries, the global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7 per cent for females, and 7.9 per cent for males. These numbers are of grave concern," Mr. Lashley disclosed.

He told his regional colleagues and technical officers charged with the responsibility of implementing relevant interventions, that they must do whatever was necessary to support the victims. The Minister stressed that children needed to know that they could speak openly to a trusted adult, and more importantly, that they would be believed. In addition, he pointed out that they should be given the reassurance that it was not their fault.

Mr. Lashley also said that child sexual abuse had far-reaching effects, which have been connected to difficulties in adulthood that threaten the family unit and society in general.

He explained that the way forward was to create a greater awareness about the prevalence of sexual abuse and its negative and prolonged impacts, by establishing programmes to educate teachers, parents and students about the problem.

"It is also critical that we provide adequate supervision for our children and others to safeguard them from harm. In protecting our children, we are protecting our future," Mr. Lashley said.


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