Sexual abuse of children worrying Berbicians By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
June 6, 2004

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Disturbing reports of a high incidence of sexual abuse of young female children in Region Six by male adults have surfaced in the wake of the alleged liaison between a 13-year-old girl and a prominent city businessman.

Alex Foster, President of the St. Francis Community Developers, last Wednesday told a gathering at the club's Rose Hall headquarters that some 31 cases of sexual abuse were reported to its offices over the past two years. The occasion was a visit by executive board members of UNICEF, led by President of the Board, Ambassador Lebohang Moleko.

According to Foster the cases were brought to the attention of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security and the Office of the President but no action was taken. All of the offences were allegedly committed on the Corentyne but Foster is convinced that this is only the tip of the iceberg, since a number of cases are not reported by parents and guardians.

Over the years this newspaper has learnt of numerous cases of incest and sexual abuse of young girls by male adults. However, very few cases reach the courts because of various reasons. The community development worker was very critical of the police, the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which "purport to represent children's rights" accusing them of indifference and slothfulness in dealing with cases of child abuse.

Foster told the gathering which included regional and government officials, representatives of NGOs, schoolchildren and members of the organisation that last week two cases of sexual abuse were brought to the club's attention.

"In the first case a five-year-old girl from the central Corentyne was allegedly raped by a 66-year-old man. The man was arrested by the police but was subsequently released following the intervention of a politician in the region." According to Foster the sum of $10,000 was paid to secure the man's release.

"I approached several individuals seeking their assistance to have the man prosecuted but only received excuses. The politicians said they did not want to deal with the matter because their intervention might be misconstrued as a political platform while the national NGOs said they were afraid to get involved because their funding might be sliced. The system is definitely not working, there is a lot of talk and no action," he lamented.

This newspaper has been reliably informed by a police source that the 66-year-old offender was indeed held by police ranks after the report was made. The source was however unable to say under what circumstances the man was released. "Two days later a grandmother came to our office and reported that her 4-year-old granddaughter had been sexually assaulted by a neighbour... on the Lower Corentyne," Foster said. This newspaper understands that the man called the infant over to his home and allegedly committed the act. He left the village shortly after the matter was brought to the fore.

According to Foster, last January an 11-year-old handicapped girl was brutally raped by an adult male on the Corentyne. The matter he said was reported to the police but again nothing was done. "Young girls and their parents across the region are suffering in silence as a result of perverted men and nothing is being done about it, the system is simply not working."

"The Camal Home for battered women at Albion," he noted, "has [a] number of young girls who have been sexually abused by their fathers and adult men."

One social worker is of the view that the law must be reformed immediately to protect children and in particular young girls from male sexual predators. "The law must cater for the fact that most of the victims are infants and the perpetrators adults and must therefore include provisions which will protect infants from predators. At the moment perverted men are unafraid to commit such acts because they are fully aware that it is almost impossible for them to be prosecuted," the officer noted.

Incorrect report on sex abuse cases
Tuesday, June 15th 2004

Contrary to an article published in the Sunday Stabroek of June 6, headlined 'Sexual abuse of children worrying Berbicians', St. Francis Community Developers President, Alex Foster says his agency has not received 31 sexual abuse cases involving children over the past two years.

Foster explains in a letter to the newspaper that the cases to which he referred were of children who required medical operations overseas. The story had quoted Foster as saying that the sexual abuse cases had been reported to the Human Services Ministry and the Office of the President, but no action was taken.

To say that no action was "taken therefore on the issue by both offices would be incorrect since the reports were not made on sexual abuse but major overseas medical operations," he clarified in the letter, adding that the issues could have been confused because they were discussed around the same time.

He also said the Human Services Ministry and the St. Francis Community Deve-lopers have been co-operating on several fronts to address social concerns that affect residents.