Violence against women and children

first_imgRecently a number of cases involving women and children being sexually assaulted engaged the attention of the High Court here. During the hearings, in quite a few of them the nation was shocked to learn of the details which emerged of how the victims were sexually and physically abused. In one of the cases, a logger was found guilty on two counts of sexual activity with a child family member by the jury at the High Court. A relative of the victim read out the girl’s statement in court where the child outlined that she lives in discomfort and harbours difficulty relating to males. According to the victim, since the sexual abuse, she often has nightmares and bad dreams, with constant flashbacks of the harrowing attacks inflicted upon her. She related that she does not play with friends and spends much time self-harming herself. She was quoted in the media saying: “I feel messed up about what happened to me”.Then there was another case in which a man appeared in court for a similar matter. He is currently serving a life sentence after being found guilty last year of raping a male family member, who was seven and eight years old when he was violated. These are just two of a long list of cases of our children being sexually violated. While life would never be the same again for the victims involved, it is good to see that the perpetrators are facing justice for these despicable and cruel acts. However, this might just be the tip of the iceburg, as it is highly believed that many child sexual abuse cases are deliberately hidden and go unreported due to varying reasons.Sexual violence against children is considered to be a gross violation of children’s rights. According to United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sexual violence can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography. It can happen in homes, institutions, schools, workplaces, in travel and tourism facilities, within communities. Increasingly, the Internet and mobile phones also put children at risk of sexual violence as some adults look to the Internet to pursue sexual relationships with children. There is also an increase in the number and circulation of images of child abuse.The UNICEF study, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, estimates that worldwide, around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about one in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Boys also report experiences of sexual violence, but they do so to a lesser extent than girls.Evidence shows that sexual violence can have serious short- and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences not only for girls or boys, but also for their families and communities. This includes increased risks for illness, unwanted pregnancy, psychological distress, stigma, discrimination and difficulties at school.In Guyana, stakeholders must seek to obtain empirical data about the incidences of these crimes against children, especially in the geographical areas in which it is known to occur and put systems in place to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.The Guyana Police Force is also a key partner in the fight against child sexual violence. The Force must continue to provide the necessary training to its officers to properly investigate sexual crimes against children. Our children need to be assured that when violence against them is reported, the law will act quickly to prosecute the perpetrators and that our judicial system will function efficiently and equitably to bring such criminals to justice.Importantly too is that all the necessary support systems must be put in place to ensure victims and their families are provided with the counselling, etc, to overcome the trauma of sexual violence.Women and children, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, cultural or social backgrounds, deserve to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and are part of loving and nurturing families.last_img read more