‘Distressing’ findings in reports of Rights of the Child Commission

… Speaker says greater focus on migrant children needed

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By Vishani Ragobeer

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There are some ‘distressing’ findings in the four annual reports of the Rights of the Child Commission that have been handed over to the Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir.

This is according to Chairperson of the Commission Aleema Nasir who handed over the reports for the period 2017 to 2020 on Wednesday at the Public Buildings in Brickdam, Georgetown.

“While there are some good things that are in our reports, we are very distressed at some of the findings in the regions.

“(There is) a lot of neglect, abuse and incest,” Nasir stated.

Nasir’s brief remarks were evidenced by earlier reports from the Child Care and Protection Agency. At the end of December 2020, the agency reported that there were 3,129 reports of children being abused.

This commission is an independent constitutional body tasked with representing the rights of children in Guyana. And the reports illustrate the work done by the commission, the challenges faced and recommendations for further protection of children.

These reports will be made public after they are laid in the National Assembly. Before that, however, the Commission’s Deputy Chairperson Rosemary Benjamin said that many of the recommendations are restated year after year.

These include a need for more children to be exposed to what their human rights are, greater responsiveness to the needs of children in schools and “a bit more emphasis” on the protection of the child in the “fairly comprehensive” Sexual Offences Act.

The Speaker commended the Commissioners for the work done over the years since they were installed in 2009. He, however, called for greater support for children. Of particular importance, the Speaker said, was the registration of children and the support being afforded to migrant children.

“The commission is very very challenging, especially children coming over our borders and nothing having any form of registration.

“… Guyana can’t turn away these kids. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that we can afford them the opportunity that is enshrined in their rights regardless if they are coming over the border legally or illegally,” Nadir stated.

Nadir also stated that the work of the commission and the findings that have been stated in the reports will be used to inform the work of other constitutional bodies.

Meanwhile, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions imposed, Nasir said that the commission has been concerned about children’s inability to attend schools.

When asked about the lobbying work that the commission has been doing to ensure that adequate protection measures are in place for children, however, Benjamin said that the body has been quietly lobbying government ministries and engaging the other bodies tasked with responding to the needs of children.

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