The four core principles from the International Convention on the Rights of the Child are as follows: non-discrimination, devotion to the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development.
They stem from the declarations in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child—a legally binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of race, religion or abilities.
In Trinidad and Tobago, however, these rights are found to have been breached in all too common and cavalier a manner, with disquieting frequency, in what appears to be the ingrained behaviour of adults.
There is no doubt that our children are under siege.
There were predictions at the beginning of the national lockdowns decreed as a result of the threats posed by Covid-19 that there would have been an increase in cases of child abuse, along with other forms of domestic violence. The numbers thus far have borne this out in starkly disturbing terms. In one of the most recent cases, a 63-year-old grandfather was brought up on charges of having molested his 13-year-old granddaughter.
The Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, told us that over the period January to August this year, there were more than 11,000 calls to the domestic violence hotlines. The immediate past chairman of the Children’s Authority revealed that in many cases, abuse of children in domestic situations is being perpetrated by a parent, many times a mother. He described the Authority as being “overwhelmed”, despite the heroic work it has been undertaking in defence of the nation’s children, and their inalienable rights.
One independent senator told the country in a recent iteration of this deep-seated social crisis that a study conducted for the period 2015 to 2018 disclosed a staggering 14,581 cases of abuse against children. A study conducted on figures from 2008 alone, by sociologist Dr Daphne Phillips, found that 40 per cent of children who committed criminal acts had been sexually abused. “A child acting out is a child crying out for help,” we have been advised.
Principal among the ambitions established with the start of this observance in 1954 was a command for the attention of mothers and fathers, teachers, nurses, doctors, Government leaders and civil society activists, community leaders, corporate moguls and media professionals to play their part, as well as young people and children themselves, in making Universal Children’s Day relevant for their own societies, communities and nations.
This offers each of us what is advanced as an important entry point to advocate, promote and celebrate child rights, translating them into dialogues and action that will build a better world for children, and for us all.
What is stated here in such unambiguous terms is that we all have a job on our hands, and thus far we are failing in this duty to do right in this fight to save our children. This is key to the ultimate mission for saving our society.