Government has completed drafting a Bill, which outlaws child marriages in line with the provisions of the Constitution, newly appointed Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Retired Major-General Happyton Bonyongwe has said.
Minister Bonyongwe said the initiative would put into legislation the Constitutional Court ruling of January 20, 2016 barring child marriages.
“Government is equally worried with the upsurge in cases of child marriages and an upsurge on issues of sexual abuse against minors and the girl child,” he said.
“We have set in motion the processes to bring legislative tools that will accelerate the administration of justice on issues where child marriage and abuse of our children is concerned. Soon after approval by Cabinet, we will take the Bill to Parliament for further action.”
Minister Bonyongwe said Government was working on another Bill with proposed life sentence for those convicted on sexually abusing minors. He said those caught outside the law for raping adult women would be jailed for at least 40 years.
“The other part of the proposal is to have those convicted of rape and wilful transmission of HIV and Aids to the survivors should be jailed for at least 40 years,” he said.
“The need to create a peaceful society where sexual abuse is outlawed cannot be over emphasized.”
Government, he said, made significant progress in terms of aligning the laws with the Constitution and was looking at completing the process by the end of next year.
Minister Bonyongwe said his ministry was engaged in promoting and outlining the scope of the constitution to all the citizens countrywide.
“So far we have translated the Constitution into eight languages including Shona, Ndebele, Sotho, Tonga, Venda, Nambia, Kalanga and Braille,” he said.
“Further, my ministry, in partnership with the National Constitution Translation Committee, a consortium of six universities, is working towards the translation of the constitution into other vernacular languages. It is envisaged that the translation project will be completed in 2018.”
Minister Bonyongwe said Government had printed 500 000 copies of the constitution and a further 350 000 abridged versions in other languages. He said they developed 4 000 copies of braille for the benefit of those visually impaired.
“It is important for us to unpack the scope of our own home grown constitution which replaced the negotiated Lancaster House constitution on 22 May 2013,” said Minister Bonyongwe.
“Adoption of the Constitution, which consolidates the aspirations and wishes of our living and late gallant fighters such as President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the late nationalist Joshua Nyongolo Mqabuko Nkomo, Cephas Cele, George Silinduka and many more is a monumental achievement.”
Minister Bonyongwe said it was also critical for Government to promote the country’s supreme law to become a living and helpful document.
BOLIVAR, Missouri (KY3) - A year ago, Ryan Briggs, 19, came forward with an unthinkable story of being sexually abused at the age of 15. Since then, his passion has been to prevent it from happening to others in Bolivar.
“When you're helping people you really get to heal yourself of what has happened, and I think that's what I have done,” Briggs said.
He and his mother, Becky, have committed to drafting and ratifying a new code of conduct for how adults should interact with kids in Bolivar.
“When you have a code of conduct in place it gives people empowerment to watch,” Becky said. “Then they're more observant. They watch what's going on around them. They know for sure that these are the things we need to see people doing, or not doing.”
The proposed code isn’t a city ordinance or official town policy, but the hope is that if enough leaders and businesses adopt it then it will become an unofficial law.
“Our argument towards a code of conduct is simply you've got something you can back up on as a community,” Ryan said. “If you see an adult or someone who has signed this code of conduct [and they see something inappropriate, they can say], 'hey, this is not right. What you're doing to this child, or what you're doing to this teenager isn't alright, here's this code of conduct. We're calling you out on it.'”
It’s an 11 point, 1 page document, which signers will pledge to use “appropriate touch,” “Positive techniques of guidance,” and not give gifts to children without an appropriate adult’s consent, among other things.
“When you have a code of conduct in place it gives people empowerment to watch,” Becky Briggs says. “Then they're more observant. They watch what's going on around them. They know for sure that these are the things we need to see people doing, or not doing.”
They’ve been working with Darkness to Light, a national organization, as well as Bolivar community leaders to come up with the code. Right now it’s in its final draft. They hope to ratify it on November 13, and then take it around town for businesses to adopt.
Bolivar superintendent, Dr. Tony Berry, has been working with the Briggs’ since taking the job earlier this year.
“Adopting the code of conduct would say that this community is taking a proactive stance on how adults should be treating kids,” Dr. Berry said. “I think everybody that has rational thought about them says, 'yeah, this is absolutely how we should be treating kids.' The reality of it is, there are bad people out there.”
Ryan Briggs is hoping that this will inspire good behavior in Bolivar, or, at least, empower residents to find those bad people before it’s too late.
Regardless of how many businesses adopt the new code of conduct, this cause has given him a purpose.
“It gives you a goal,” he said. “It gives you something to be happy about, and helping others is at the core of making oneself happy. This isn't just about [me] being happy, this is a problem we face as a community, as a country, as a society. We face this.”
Working towards a World of Trust
This week, the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Convention for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation & Sexual Abuse (the Lanzarote Convention) celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Convention, which was opened for signature on 25 October 2007 on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, remains to date the most ambitious and comprehensive international legal instrument for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation.
“The best estimate is that one in five children at some point faces sexual exploitation or abuse,” said Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, in her address to conference attendees. “The trauma of such experience can last a lifetime: disrupting formal education, marring career prospects and resulting in a whole variety of mental health problems”.
The Lanzarote Convention deals with prevention, protection and prosecution of sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It criminalizes such offences as sexual abuse, child prostitution, child pornography, participation of a child in pornographic performances, corruption of children, as well as solicitation of children for sexual purposes (grooming). The Convention has now been ratified by 42 of the Council of Europe member States (all but Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom) and is open to States outside Europe.
“It is positive to see the way in which the Convention has raised awareness, laws have changed, and capacity to prevent and respond to sexual offences against children have improved in those countries that have signed it,” Deputy Secretary General added.
Among the significant achievements of the Convention are two monitoring reports on how countries implement the Convention.
Given that 70-85% of sexual abuse is committed by people from the “circle of trust” of the child, the first monitoring round completed in December 2015 focused on this theme. An example of good practice highlighted in the first monitoring report was the Icelandic model of a “children’s house” – a facility for children who have survived sexual abuse that can, in particular, be used to interview them in a child-friendly manner, during a single encounter with a specifically trained person, thus eliminating the need to go to the police and other agencies and revive the trauma. Since 2015, a number of states, such as Cyprus, Denmark, Lithuania and Sweden have adopted this model, and many more are considering doing so.
In March 2017, an urgent monitoring round on the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse of children affected by the refugee crisis was completed. Practical measures recommended by the report include screening children for signs of exploitation, ensuring that their rights are explained to them, and equipping safe reception centers for them.
In June 2017, a new monitoring round focusing on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and abuse facilitated by information and communication technologies was launched. Based on the replies by Parties to a detailed questionnaire and comments on such replies by civil society, the Lanzarote Committee will examine the situation in 2018-2019.
“We have come far in the last ten years, but there is further to go,” Battaini-Dragoni said. “Every child who can be spared the terrible experience is worth every effort we make”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued new guidelines on treating with children and adolescents who were victims of sexual assault or rape.
In a report issued October 19, WHO said for the first time guidelines have been published to assist front-line healthcare providers give high-quality, compassionate, and respectful care to children and adolescents (up to age 18) who have or may have experienced sexual abuse, including sexual assault or rape.
WHO said a 2011 study estimates that 18 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys worldwide have experienced sexual abuse, which is a major health problem and a violation of human rights.
The guidelines recommend that healthcare providers put the best interests of children and adolescents first by ensuring confidentiality and privacy, respecting their autonomy and wishes, and addressing the needs of boys and girls with vulnerabilities such as LGBTI adolescents.
WHO says victims of sexual abuse face being diagnosed with long-term post-traumatic stress disorder and are more likely to engage in unsafe sex, drug and alcohol abuse, placing them at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases. For girls, there is also the increased risk of pregnancy and gynaecological disorders.
Health care providers are recommended to do the following when treating with child and adolescent victims of sexual abuse and rape:
1. Provide first line support that is child or adolescent-centred and gender sensitive in response to disclosure of sexual abuse.
2. Offer HIV post-exposure prophylaxis and adherence support to those who have been raped and who present within 72 hours.
3. Offer emergency contraception to girls who have been raped and who present within 120 hours/ 5 days.
4. Consider STI presumptive treatment or prophylaxis in settings where laboratory testing is not feasible.
5. Consider cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus for those have PTSD symptoms and diagnosis and, where safe and appropriate to do so, involve at least 1 non-offending caregiver.
6. Offer Hepatitis B and HPV vaccination as per national guidance .
7. Where required to report child sexual abuse to designated authorities, health care providers should inform the child or adolescent and their non-offending caregivers about the obligation to report the abuse and the limits of confidentiality before interviewing them.
8. Where required to report child sexual abuse to designated authorities, health care providers should inform the child or adolescent and their non-offending caregivers about the obligation to report the abuse and the limits of confidentiality before interviewing them.
WHO adds that health-care providers should seek to minimize additional trauma and distress for children and adolescents who disclose sexual abuse.
For the full report see here: http://bit.ly/2hbelJl
The attorney-general has ruled that parents should have no say as to the content of sexual education modules taught in state schools, nor do they have the right to request that their children be exempt, an education ministry official has said.
The ministry requested the opinion of the attorney-general earlier in the year after more than 150 parents sent, through a lawyer, a joint letter to Education Minister Costas Kadis, asking whether they should have the right to exclude their children from class during sex education if they consider that this is against their religious or philosophical beliefs.
Parents also asked whether they had a say as to the way of teaching of sex education or the content of the programme.
Following this letter, the education ministry sought advice from the attorney-general and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.
Both authorities ruled that this was not possible.
“According to the attorney-general’s ruling, parents have no right by the law to express their opinion either on the way sexual education is being taught nor on the material,” an official of the education ministry said.
She also said that there is no law provision to oblige the school to take permission from parents or guardians for teaching sex education to children.
Sex education, the ruling said, is no different than any other subject on the school curriculum for which sole responsibility of choosing is that of the education ministry.
This seems like a hard-line to take for the AG but he is looking at the current law, it appears, and not what is necessarily a democratic right. Parents should have some input in what is being taught. It would be up to the law makers or ministers to allow that to happen.
As to the right to remove their children from such classes, this would work to the advantage of pedophiles within the home who don't want to be 'outed'. The majority of child sex abuse happens in or near the home, so opting out should never be an option except if there is teaching about the 'normalcy' of homosexuality or transgenderism.
Sexual education is being taught in state schools – primary and secondary education – since 2011. It is taught as a module in the subjects of health education in primary schools, in home economics in high schools and family education in lyceums.
But the commissioner for Children’s Rights, Leda Koursoumba, also said that the exclusion of children from sexual education programmes in schools would be a violation of their rights.
Koursoumba had said that adjusted sexual education, which would be integrated across the whole range of the curriculum, even from pre-school age, serves and safeguards the child’s interests. The exemption of any child from sexual education programmes due to parental interventions would be contrary to the child’s interests.
According to the education ministry, sex education in schools aims at ensuring the health of children and it is also a measure against child sexual abuse and exploitation.
“Sexual education in primary school deals with teaching children their body, which parts are private and what is a good or a bad touch,” the official said. She added that children are also taught who they can talk to in the case they experience behaviour that makes them feel uncomfortable.
In high schools and lyceums sexual education includes family planning and sexual and reproductive health.
The official refuted claims that sexual education encourages children to be sexually active earlier in life. “On the contrary, research showed that when they receive timely information, children protect more their selves, while unwanted pregnancies are prevented,” the official said.
“We want the children to take informed decisions for their lives,” she said.
The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (Enoc) called on governments last month to ensure children’s right to Comprehensive Relationship and Sexuality Education (CRSE).
Enoc said that schools must have mandatory, consistent, systematic plans and content based on the needs of children, as CRSE provides extensive support for the development and growth of children and young people.
There has been a significant decrease in juvenile crimes and a rise in reports of child abuse in Abu Dhabi since the introduction of the Child Rights Law - popularly known as the Wadeema law - last year, according to judicial authorities.
The Abu Dhabi Family Prosecution said juvenile crimes constituted 36 per cent of the total cases they received in 2016, which was lower compared to the 43 per cent recorded in 2015.
Reports of children being abused rose from 4 per cent in 2015 to 9 per cent in 2016.
Authorities have attributed the positive change in the figures to the tougher punishments through the new law, increased awareness on child rights and the need by parents to take good care of children, through awareness campaigns and workshops.
Intuitively, it is odd that an increase in reports of children being abused would be considered a positive, but, in fact, it is not an indication that more children are being abused, but rather, that more of it is being reported to authorities.
During the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department's monthly meeting titled 'Towards a stable family and a safe child' recently, Alia Mohammed Al Kaabi, head of family and child prosecution, said that the introduction of the child rights law has contributed a lot to child protection efforts. This has resulted in more reports filed about children being abused and a decrease in juvenile crimes.
The new law was put into effect in June 2016, to protect children from abuse and neglect and support their right to safety, shelter, health care and education. Anyone who breaks the law faces a fine of up to Dh50,000, and up to 10 years in prison for physical/sexual abuse or criminal negligence of children. "The new legislation has helped in providing more protection to children," said Al Kaabi.
"Previously, there were no legal sections that allowed for criminalising and prosecuting certain behaviours such as neglect towards children, or laws that safeguarded the rights of children who had been physically abused by their parents."
She said more child abuse cases have been reported to the child affairs prosecution offices since the new law was introduced last year, and authorities have dealt with people mistreating children. "People who witness a child being abused and fail to report it are prosecuted under the new child rights law," said Al Kaabi.
"It is good that people seeing children being mistreated by their parents, guardians or other persons report them to authorities, for the protection of the abused child and also to avoid legal action on their part."
The official noted that the establishment of a child affairs prosecution in Abu Dhabi last year, which investigates and deals with cases involving children, has also led to the increase in people reporting parents or guardians abusing or mistreating children.
Three child prosecution offices have been established across Abu Dhabi.
According to authorities, the child affairs prosecution responsibilities include dealing with all forms of child abuse, whether physical assaults, verbal insults, emotional or mental and whether intentionally or due the neglect of their parents, caretakers or those in their surroundings.
Social workers are also available at the child prosecution offices to offer assistance and investigate cases that involve children.
The child affairs prosecution also holds children who have committed offences under the juvenile law accountable. Previously, such cases were dealt with by the family prosecution court.
Crimes against children are unpardonable offences. The criminal justice system has taken cognizance of cases of sexual assault and abuse against children by framing tougher laws. Offenders will face its full force, the primary reason why cases have fallen. We are all responsible for protecting children. Don't remain silent when you suspect something is amiss with your child, any child. Speak up.
Children cannot speak up for themselves - they are voiceless. We adults much speak for them.
The Division of Youth Services recently completed forensic interview certification to build the CNMI’s (Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands) capacity to address child abuse, neglect, and related youth protection services.
The five-day training was provided by the First Witness Child Advocacy Center from Duluth, Minnesota.
First Witness Child Advocacy adopts the approach that is child-centered, especially when dealing with victims of child sexual and physical abuse and allowing them to safely tell their story. FWCA provides child appropriate forensic interview techniques, crisis counseling to children and families, and age appropriate education on personal body safety for children.
“Our personnel went through multiple content areas with FWCA, including the dynamics in child abuse, process of disclosure, child development, questioning children, child-first forensic interview protocol, anatomical dolls, preparing kids for court, testifying in court, hearsay and working with multi-disciplinary teams,” said DYS administrator Vivian Sablan.
The highlight of the five-day training was the exercise that involved role-playing and interviews with a trained actor portraying a child with abuse in their history, said Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter.
“DYS is pivotal in addressing the needs of the family and our children. Efforts to detect and deal with these issues effectively and appropriately are important. This service will go a long way in meeting the diverse and often complex-ridden and multi-faceted problems and needs of our community. I am proud that we now have 12 DCCA Division of Youth Services staff who are fully certified forensic interviewers, with one on Tinian and two on Rota as well as two staff of the CNMI Attorney General’s Office and one from the Department of Public Safety. This increased capacity and collaboration will help us better assist our community,” Hunter said.
DYS, as the lead agency that responds to child abuse and neglect and having the only pool of trained and certified forensic interviewers throughout the CNMI, works closely with the Department of Public Safety in conducting forensic interviews for alleged victims of various forms of maltreatment.
“From dealing with cases such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and domestic violence, DYS is averaging about eight forensic interviews a month. These reports are used in court as evidence during trials and are a key part of the child advocacy and protection process,” Sablan said.
Acting governor Victor B. Hocog said that DYS is responsible for reducing and, when possible, eradicating child abuse and neglect.
“Building our capacity and skills to address these social issues brings together our vision of addressing generational and social ills. The success of our youth is reflective of the success of the approaches we apply and our continued priorities. Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres and I extend my gratitude to the hardworking staff, counselors, and case workers who work closely with our youth in the Commonwealth, and concurrently address the related social problems plaguing families who need the most help,” Hocog said. (PR)