By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PRODESTA Moore, the DNA’s candidate for Elizabeth, yesterday criticised government’s failure to fully enact Marco’s Law.
Mrs Moore, the party’s spokesperson for Social Services, urged the country to demand its immediate enactment and a full explanation for delays in its implementation.
“More than four years since the tragic passing of 11-year-old Marco Archer,” she said in a statement, “and more than three years since the law named in honour of his life was brought before Parliament, the government has yet to enact this key piece of legislation.
“In fact the law, once touted as a priority for National Security Minister (Bernard Nottage) has seemingly fallen off his radar altogether.
“As a still developing country, the protection of our women and children is critical. And as a collective body we must demand that our legislators and political leaders take that responsibility seriously.”
In late 2013, the government tabled two amendments, one to the Sexual Offences Act and the other to the Child Protection Act, which would create a sexual offenders register, and a MARCO alert for missing children.
The Child Protection Amendment Act 2014 came into operation on August 26, 2015.
The changes are the direct result of the death of 11-year-old Marco Archer who was murdered by convicted paedophile Kofhe Goodman in 2011.
Under the Mandatory Action Rescuing Children Operation or MARCO alert, when such a child is reported missing and authorities are satisfied that there is a risk of harm or death, the commissioner of police will be required to use the alert.
Once the alert is issued, radio stations, television broadcasts, text message, electronic network system, billboards and other means necessary will be used for dissemination of information.
The regulations that will govern the MARCO alert were introduced in the House of Assembly in February of this year.
The sexual offenders register would place all persons who are convicted of sexual offences on the proposed list. However, it is unclear when this will come into force.
During a national address on crime in September 2015, Dr Nottage said the sexual offenders register was being prepared.
“Sadly, as with countless issues on its legislative agenda, the government has failed to follow through,” said Mrs Moore.
“While the government continues to drag its feet on the creation of a sex offenders registry, the assault and abuse of our young boys and girls continues to occur at an astronomical rate.
“According to a recent report, which focused on gender based violence, the abuse of children – physical, emotional and sexual – has become a cultural norm in The Bahamas, particularly in smaller family island communities.
“More than 2,000 cases of child abuse were reported between 2010 and 2014 and officials estimate that number to be even higher due to the prevailing culture of secrecy and under reporting.”
She added: “The time to protect our children is always right now. And this government must do whatever is necessary to make that happen.”