Guyana is currently observing Child Protection Week which runs until September 30 – a week marred from the outset by news of the sodomising and murder of a 13-year-old Berbice boy, whose bound, decomposing corpse over the weekend washed up on a nearby river bank.
The Social Protection Ministry is adamant that “this rape of our children must stop” in its message outlining its plans for the observance of “a week set aside annually as a national project with the main purpose of increased common awareness and understanding of the importance of primary prevention to reduce child abuse and neglect in our society by instilling the core principle that child protection is everybody’s business.”
This is particularly pertinent in light of the revelations that the two men who allegedly raped and murdered the young Berbice lad were in fact accused of sexually molesting numerous other village boys.
Leonard Archibald, of Lot 51 Brothers, East Bank Berbice, went missing two Sundays ago after he left home to accompany his three sisters from a birthday party in the neighbouring village of Sisters. As his siblings were on their way home, he rode ahead of them but never arrived home.
The two suspects, who live three buildings away from the Sisters Police Station, were later arrested and confessed to sodomising the First Form student.
On Saturday, when INews visited the community, residents alleged that one of the reported perpetrators was a known child molester, who had a reputation of tying up young boys and sexually assaulting them.
According to the Social Protection Ministry, there is still too much silence on childhood sexual abuse in society and documented that for the first half of the year there have been 424 cases reported to the Child Care and Protection Agency.
It was noted too that “this is not the true picture since child sexual abuse is a hidden crime; done behind closed doors with victims literally without a voice to tell of abuse.”
The Ministry noted too that “incest and underage sexual activity resulting in pregnancy is (also) of grave concern”.
During this year’s observance of Child Protection Week, the Ministry has organised as its main activity a rally to be held Wednesday at Anna Regina – to be held under the theme “Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse.”
The general theme for the one-week observance centres on “partnering with families and communities for the positive outcomes for children”.
As part of its activities, the Social Protection Ministry, in collaboration with the Child Care and Protection Agency, has launched a national multi-media child abuse awareness campaign, aimed at sensitising the populace “of the plight of those children who suffer abuse and to highlight signs and symptoms to propel the public into protective action”.
The Social Protection Ministry said another focus of the campaign was the strengthening and capacity building of parents in their protective roles.
Child Protection Week is observed in 120 countries around the world, but at different times and with different themes.