Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | December 6, 2010
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Out in the cold: UWI lecturer says Government not doing enough to protect children
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

A University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer has questioned the Govern-ment's commitment to protecting children, 20 years after Jamaica signed the United Nations' Con-vention on the Rights of the Child.

Dr Aldrie Henry-Lee - a sociologist and senior research fellow in the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies at the UWI's Mona campus - used statistics from the Office of the Children's Advocate to illustrate the state's failure to honour the document's requirements.

She noted that approximately 6,000 children are living or working on the streets. Of the 1,406 persons reported missing in Jamaica in 2009, more than 900 were minors.

Henry-Lee shared these findings during her address to the Rotary Club of Portmore's weekly meeting at the Eden Gardens hotel in St Andrew. She said failure of parents to register their children is another matter of concern.

"Only 89 per cent of children are being registered. If you don't register your child, you are denying your child an identity," Henry-Lee stressed.

She pointed out that these alarming figures show the welfare of children is not one of government's priorities. She said Jamaica has not lived up to the main components of the Convention of the Rights Child document which it signed in New York in November 1989.

One hundred and forty countries signed the document which statutes took effect in November 1990. It includes a commitment from the state to ensure participation, protection and provision for its children.

Henry-Lee said Jamaica has not done well in either department, as children are not included in the decision-making process, neither are they being protected or provided for.

Protection of minors (citizens up to age 18) has become a major issue in Jamaica, largely through aggressive lobbying from the Office of the Children's Advocate and independent groups like Hear The Children's Cry.

The kidnapping, rape and murder of several girls in Kingston and rural areas in recent years drew national outrage and influenced the establishment of the Ananda Alert in May 2009.

Henry-Lee said boys have suffered more from child neglect as they continue to fall behind girls in critical areas like academics.

"There is a vulnerability among males that needs to be addressed, because it has long-term effects," she warned. "Boys are crying out for special attention; while we champion the progress of women, there should be more focus on boys in the schools."

Henry-Lee has done extensive research on poverty, health and gender issues throughout the Caribbean. She has written a book and several papers on those topics.

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