UWI gender institute: Act immediately on abuse at children’s homes

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) is calling on the relevant authorities act immediately and strengthen the mechanisms by which children in state care are protected from harm.

In a press release on Wednesday, the institute expressed deep concern after a Cabinet-appointed committee recently reported there was rampant abuse at some children’s homes.

“There must be immediate response and action to protect the children currently in these homes, where contributing there are reports of repeat sexual offences and gender-based violence occurring.

“We call upon the State to act immediately on the ‘Safeguarding Children in Community Residencies and Child Support Centers in Trinidad and Tobago’ Report and to urgently follow through on the report’s recommendations.”

Calling the report “yet another in a long list of reports,” the institute said the government must invest in enhanced specialised psycho-social support and sustained trauma interventions for children at these homes.

It also recommended the government partner with civil society organisations and a diverse range of stakeholders to address the report’s issues.

No stranger to research on the topic of child sexual abuse in TT, the IGDS referred to its ‘Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse’ action-research project as an example of a transformative project that can be created when there is substantial cross stakeholder collaboration on projects.

“The project was initiated in response to concerns expressed by a wide range of stakeholders throughout Trinidad and Tobago, who acknowledged child sexual abuse’s taboo character and diverse beliefs about it across local communities.

“The project noted the inaction and assumed tolerance of child sexual abuse and demanded that the situation be researched and unearthed.”

While the cabinet recently appointed a Child Abuse Task Force, the institute said it must act immediately on the report’s recommendations and also seek the views of past residents of homes.

As it relates to the creation of a children’s commissioner post, the institute said the office holder must possess clear qualifications and experience with a human-rights approach to transformation.