Help & Shelter calls on govt for strategy to prevent child abuse

Stabroek News
November 20, 2002

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Help & Shelter, the non-government counselling agency, is calling on the government to design and implement an effective national strategy to prevent child abuse.

In a release recognising World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse yesterday and Universal Children's Day today, the agency says it is also encouraging those who work against child abuse to continue their efforts.

"The prevention of child abuse calls for collective efforts of government, civil society organisations, religious bodies, community groups and individuals," Help & Shelter asserted.

It noted also that child abuse in Guyana remains a social issue for which there is no strategy, and very few ways of intervening and supporting children.

The agency said it has worked with over 400 children to date, but it is also concerned that there are probably hundreds of other children who suffer in silence out of reach of any helping agency.

Cases of sexual abuse go unreported, the release said, because many children or their caregivers fear the legal system.

"We need urgent reform which will allow protection of child witnesses in our police stations and courts, which will allow speedy trials so as not to prolong the ordeal for the children," the agency declar-ed.

The issue of corporal punishment remains a public debate, Help & Shelter said, noting that many adults brutalise children in the name of disciplining them. "Schools and homes must be made violence free if our society is to be free from violence," the counselling agency added.

And the provision of specialised counselling services for abused children is necessary and needed throughout the country, Help & Shelter maintained. Many people expect that the children will recover easily, the agency added, but while some do, there are many Guyanese men and women who still deal alone with the trauma of the abuse even as they struggle to lead productive lives.

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