A student friendly version of the Protection of Children Act 2009 was yesterday launched in the Annex of the National Library.
The 24-page full-colour booklet explains in simple language what the Protection of Children Act says, what is meant by the best interests of the child and what children’s rights are. It advises children when they need protection, how they will be protected, who will protect them and gives insight on court proceedings. It also explains what sanctions are taken against people who harm children and highlights where children can go for help if they are harmed.
The booklet was produced by the Child Rights Division, Childcare and Protection Agency. Development and testing were done in collaboration with the teachers and students of Annandale, Christ Church, Freeburg, North Georgetown, Queenstown, and St Winefriede’s secondary schools; Bishops’, St Joseph, Central and St George’s high schools and Lodge Community High School.
Dr Suleiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative for Guyana and Suriname, during his remarks at the launch, stated that there is only so much that can be done to address the issue.
“It is true that no matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, there would be some elements in society that will seek to circumvent the law,” he noted.
“We know that when we talk about child abuse, child exploitation, more often than not, the perpetrators are known to the children… the victims end up in situation where they do not talk about it because they do not know that it is their right to be heard when they report it and it is their right to have action taken when they report it,” Braimoh explained.
That is the gap, he said, that the publication fills. “I do hope that this is the beginning of action that will be taken collectively, both on the part of UNICEF support and in the work that the ministry has been doing to fill other gaps,” he stated.
Minister of Human Services Priya Manickchand noted that in 2008, several bills pertaining to the welfare of children were laid—the Childcare Development Services Bill, the Adoption of Children Bill, the Status of Children Bill, legislation dealing with custody, contact, guardianship and maintenance of children and the Protection of Children Bill—all of which were unanimously passed by the National Assembly.
“I declare without apology that we have done well. I also say equally that we will never be at a stage where we can beat our chest when it relates to looking after our children. There is always going to be work to be done because there will always be delinquents in our society who are bent on breaking the laws and abusing our children,” Manickchand stated.
The minister went on, with reference to the Neesa Gopaul tragedy, to state that children will be seen suffering and also abusive adults will be seen. The difference now, she said, is that there is an agency that can provide redress and can do much to prevent this.
Meanwhile, Minister Manickchand said that student friendly versions of all the pieces of legislation that has been passed will be done.