FRIENDLY BRUTES! - Children abused by persons close to them
One of Jamaica's leading sociologists, Orville Beckford, says imposing harsher penalties on persons found guilty of committing crimes against children will not, by itself, reduce the extent to which minors fall prey to vicious criminals.
According to Beckford, significant attention must also be placed on socialising persons to protect children and to be on the lookout for persons who bring harm to them.
"Social issues are not a quick fix and legislating behaviours in families can cross the basic boundaries of human rights, so we can only depend on families and communities to be watchdogs for the law," Beckford said.
The sociologist's comment comes against the backdrop of last week's rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, Talia Thompson , in St Ann. The alleged perpetrator, a 27-year-old neighbour and family friend, is now in police custody.
More than 1,800 children were victims of various crimes in 2022, according to data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
In February, nine-year-old Nikita Noel was raped and murdered by her stepfather, Omar Green, in Hanover. The brute has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Beckford reasoned that while the government can institute "harsher laws for the perpetrators when they are found", it may be difficult to prevent these crimes.
"We can only tell the society that, in socialisation, we protect the youth by calling out what we see that may look suspicious," he said.
Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison said most children who are violated and abused suffer at the hands of people they know.
"These individuals not only have access to children but, in many cases, children and their parents/guardians trust them, increasing the risk of harm and vulnerability faced by children," Gordon Harrison said.
She continued, "As a nation, we must persevere and continually strive to do better for our children. We cannot stress enough the importance of vigilance within our society and the need to educate our children about the sad truth that not every adult they know has their best interests at heart. Some people will harm them, and they must always be vigilant."