KINGSTON: Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller will lead a child protection campaign across the nation in response to recent cases of murder and abuse of the nation’s youth.
Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, said Simpson-Miller would be engaged in “courageous” conversations during the campaign which will begin on May 28, near the end of Child Month, themed, “Children’s Safety and Security – Our Priority”.
During an address last weekend, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller said she was deeply saddened by the recent mistreatment and murder of Jamaican children.
“The brutal killing of our children is a vile and dreadful occurrence that is alien to our culture,” she said.
Simpson-Miller said she was also concerned about instances of parental neglect.
“What have we become when, as a society, we hurt and kill our children? As a country, we are destroying the social fabric of the society and blighting our collective future when we abuse and hurt our children.
“Too many of our children are being subjected to heartrending violence and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, many times carried out by family members and other persons they trust.”
Simpson-Miller said the situation had to be dealt with immediately and firmly. She outlined measures that would be taken by government, which include changes to legislation to provide for harsher penalties for people who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children.
Cabinet also approved a proposal for those cases to be given priority treatment in the trial list, with respect to scheduling and disposal.
Work is also underway for legislation to be passed to create a new offence of parental neglect.
“When this comes into effect, a parent whose child is found in circumstances consistent with inadequate parental care and attention can be charged and tried for parental neglect,” said Simpson-Miller. “Such circumstances will include children found unsupervised on the streets or other public places late at night, or a child found living with an adult where the arrangement exposes the child to the risk of sexual or other abuse.”
A new provision will also be made to expand the number of agencies to which reports of child abuse can be made.