Concern is brewing within the Social Protection Ministry over the rising number of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases and incest in Indigenous communities, Minister Volda Lawrence said recently.
During the ministry’s presentation at this year’s annual National Toshao Conference (NTC) at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Lawrence revealed that the numbers are swelling in the hinterland among Indigenous peoples.
She made a call for the leaders of the 212 plus communities to proactively protect their women and children and report cases of sexual violence and TIP.
She stated that while the ministry must act decisively to combat the growing scourge, the leaders also have their roles to play. It was emphasised that young people, especially Indigenous women are leaving their homes and families in search of jobs in other communities and when they are promised employment they end up being exploited and worked as slaves or sex workers.
The ministry promised to collaborate with the leaders to quickly address the issues affecting these communities.
Lawrence said that the people have adopted a passive approach in tackling issues of rape, incest and TIP in their communities, with most of them remaining mum on the issues.
She recalled visiting the community Kwakwani and seeing a child mothering another child. She said the child was 13 years and the baby was one-year-old and that was accepted in the village. She said no one raised their voice against it. She pointed out that teenage pregnancy is one of the harsh realities that bedevil child abuse and rape.
Speaking to the Toshaos and councillors, Lawrence pleaded that if they are going to prosecute perpetrators, the elders need to stand up and speak out instead of allowing them to continue living in the communities, or their homes.
Earlier this year the community of Annai complained of a growing number of teenage pregnancies at the village’s Secondary School. It was reported that there were five teenage pregnancies at the school, all of which went underreported.
It was reported that as soon as these girls become pregnant they would drop out of school and return to their villages and never benefiting from any counselling.