Preserving the innocence of children
Guyana Chronicle
August 29, 2003

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THE tragic shooting to death of two youthful live-in lovers and the alleged sexual assault perpetrated on two sisters under ten years of age bring into sharp relief the many perils and circumstances that can conspire to rob children of their innocence and violate their bodies and their minds with life-long negative repercussions. Many a parent must have been outraged on hearing the news that the lover, or “reputed wife” killed by a jealous paramour a little over a week ago at Enterprise, East Coast Demerara, was only 14 years old. Parents of other young teenage girls must be racking their brains trying to imagine their own offspring being in such a very adult situation, and wondering what alchemy of events and fate changed a young girl-child into a “wife”. And here, we must extend our heartfelt sympathy to the parents and other relatives of the two young people, who met their deaths in such a savage manner. The other disturbing incident, which was reported in another section of the print media, occurred in New Amsterdam. Magistrate Krishendat Persaud, we learnt, expressed annoyance that after he had given instructions for two young girls to be checked out by the Probation authorities, the children were allegedly enticed by an adult male, who later assaulted them sexually. The Magistrate had been startled by the “adult” quality of the children’s conversation. That led him to believe that something was seriously amiss in the children’s lives. We can only hope that by now, there has been some sort of community response to help these little girls begin a process of healing both in their minds and in their bodies.

As saddening as these cases may appear, we must understand that the physical and sexual abuse of young defenceless children is a fact of life. And while abject poverty can spawn a higher incidence of this most negative trend, the social scourge cuts across classes and is also prevalent in developed countries. Many social theorists believe that the home is sometimes one of the most violent places for a child. We know that in the ideal home environment, children are treated as the most precious beings. From babyhood, children are afforded appropriate nourishment, they are cuddled and loved and cared for. Parents or caretakers ensure that their little charges are healthy and are prompt in taking them to clinics for their regimen of vaccines. Children are introduced to the world of books when their parents read them stories that stimulate their imagination. As they get older, they are encouraged to re-create their world through the medium of play or fantasy. At this stage, young children begin the process of socialisation and are gently introduced to forms of acceptable behaviour by their parents, other family members and day-care or nursery personnel.

Sadly enough, because of extreme poverty, uncaring parents and very ignorant and wicked individuals, many other children are victims of dysfunctional home environments and are routinely denied adequate meals and necessary care. Such children are robbed of all the nurturing, love, protection and mental stimuli that are taken for granted. The thoughts and imaginations of these children are left to lie fallow, and too early these youngsters are forced to accelerate childhood and assume a level of “force-ripe” adult cunning in order to negotiate the rigours of their existence. The phenomenon of street children is one manifestation of a dysfunctional home environment. By their very presence on the streets, these youngsters are demonstrating that the nomadic and unsheltered existence on the pavements and around the markets is infinitely more palatable than the terrors of home life.

We can only hope that with greater consciousness-raising by the commissions, agencies and non-governmental organisations looking after the interest of children, the incidence of violence and abuse of young children would be reduced throughout the society.