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May is designated Child’s Month to allow parents, guardians, care-givers, policy-makers and politicians opportunity to re-focus attention on our children’s development especially those whom continue to live in poverty.

The People’s National Party (PNP), therefore, calls on Government to intensify efforts to maintain the gains made in child protection. We are prepared, to work together in any effort to strengthen our laws protecting our children from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

In recent times, society has been exposed to the horrors of kidnapping, sexual assault, child abuse, and murder among the population of our children. According to information available at CISOCA, in 2016 more than 1094 reports of alleged sexual assaults on children were recorded, the majority of which involved perpetrators who ought to have been protectors.

Child neglect in Jamaica ranks number one in reports of abuse received by the Office of the Children’s Registry. Additionally, surveys conducted have shown that the first sexual encounter for a boy and girl in Jamaica are at 13 and 14 years old, respectively. The latest UNICEF State of the World’s Children report finds that over 85% of Jamaican children between the ages of 2- 14 experience violent discipline in their lives.

The last PNP administration formed an Inter- Ministerial Committee for Children in 2013 which included all relevant Ministries and national stakeholders.

The committee’s efforts resulted in Jamaica recording solid progress at UNICEF in 2014, especially with finding solutions to persistent problems involving child rights. Jamaica’s success, particularly in our approaches to children in lockups and correctional facilities. From our interventions and programmes, Jamaica moved up 52 places in the UNICEF Kids Rights Index, to be ranked 51 out of 163 countries globally. Unfortunately, despite these interventions and recognition, Jamaica continues to be mired in the abuse of its women and children.

If we believe that ‘a country is judged by the way it treats its children’, our goal, as leaders must be to improve the lives of ALL Jamaican children. As politicians and policy-makers, our efforts must supersede tribal politics and partisan approaches. If we fail in this imperative neither our children, nor consequently Jamaica will progress.

We have tabled a motion in Parliament to debate the need for a restructuring of current educational methods and/or development of new methods to ensure a re-enforcement of basic values and attitudes, and the building of healthy family relationships as a foundation for making decency, high self esteem, civility, and patriotism Jamaica’s guiding principles. In the spirit of bi-partisanship and in protection of our children, we hope this debate will proceed meaningfully and with urgency. We therefore, call on Government to join us in consensus to enhance Jamaica’s future.