Our party-politicized culture works against the interests of children who are victims of sexual violence

Dear Editor,

We write in response to recent letters attacking Red Thread, among others, for our public silence on the allegations made against CN Sharma. The most recent we’ve seen is one published in the Guyana Times of Thursday, April 22, titled ‘Is the response to Sharma’s case because of the girls’ poverty or the accused’s prominence?’ No doubt it has also been published, or soon will be, in the Chronicle.

Red Thread deals with all too many cases of child sexual violence.  In all of these cases, we think that we and all who care about children need to take the following steps:

1. Work (if possible with the relevant authorities) to ensure the safety of the child alleging the violence.

2. Again with the relevant authorities, if possible, take care that the child’s statement will be admissible in court.

3. Avoid any action, including any publicity, that might compromise the case.

We have found this last to be especially critical for two reasons: one, the readiness of some of our most prominent and ‘respectable’ lawyers to use any ammunition provided to destroy children to save their clients and justify their fees and two, the readiness of people with power to use that power completely without scruple to protect their friends.

This is why we believe that while our institutions are very weak and frequently don’t respond as the law requires them to, our task is to ‘kick-start’ them rather than attempt to go around them in ways that act against the interests of the victims of sexual violence.

In relation to the allegations made against CN Sharma, Red Thread was asked to see the child and we did what we always do: we heard what she had to say, advised her about her options, and reassured her that she was doing nothing wrong by coming forward. We then stayed in contact with the Child Care and Protection Agency about the safety of all of the children named in the affidavit she made.

CN Sharma’s supporters outside the court, the jail and the police station and in mini-buses everywhere have been drawing parallels between the treatment of the earlier allegations against Kwame McCoy and today’s allegations against him.  Some of them are proclaiming his innocence, but many are in effect saying that it doesn’t matter whether or not he is innocent; their line is, “You [the government and ruling PPP] din lock up McCoy, loose Sharma.” In other words, “you protect you own, we protecting we own.”

This is what we get when people in the highest places play politics with the lives and safety of children. The reported statement by the PPP that all, high and low, must stand equal before the law, is a level of hypocrisy that it would be hard to beat.

While we must ensure that adults who are innocent of charges of child sexual abuse are exonerated, we have an absolute obligation to see to it that every single one of them who is guilty as charged is locked away in jail. All. Regardless of which party they belong to or none.

All. Till now, the law has been stacked against the children who allege that they were sexually abused.  That is why we picketed every week for almost a year for the Sexual Offences legislation to be passed. We believe that properly implemented, it will serve as protection against the barbaric acts that too many adults (overwhelmingly men) are perpetrating against our children.

But we will still have to deal with how our increasingly party-politicized culture works against the interests of the children. While we piously mouth that “children are our future” we are destroying their present as we play political games on their bodies.

Yours faithfully,
Andaiye
Karen de Souza
Red Thread

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