By FARRAH JOHNSON
RIGHTS Bahamas yesterday urged law enforcement to enforce stricter policies to protect Bahamian children from abuse.
The activist group questioned whether officials are “doing everything in their power” to ensure the wellbeing of minors, and accused National Security Minister Marvin Dames of allegedly “refusing to recognise a clear case of child abuse”.
The group was referring to a viral video of a young Bahamian girl who was punched in the head and beaten with a belt and a stick by a woman, while another person recorded. In a series of video clips, the girl was also shown to have been beaten repeatedly by a man with a belt.
In the statement, Stephanie St. Fleur, president of Rights Bahamas, said: “It is heartbreaking, not only see a child treated this way on video, but also to hear that officials refused to call it what it is.”
“It is also baffling that the police failed to inform the public about a possible child predator on the streets," she said, referring to a delay in the reporting of a recent incident of a sexual assault on a minor.
Ms St Fleur said: "Our children are among the most vulnerable members of society and we expect law enforcement to go above and beyond, both to warn society of potential threats against minors, and to recognise and thoroughly investigate all cases in which they are abused."
Ms St. Fleur continued: “If we cannot label a child receiving 40 blows to different parts of her body by a grown adult (as) abuse, then how can we raise awareness about such terrible practices? How can we teach our children right from wrong?”
Rights Bahamas also cited Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which states: “State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
The activists also drew reference to Article 34 which also states: “States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”
Although the group acknowledges that The Bahamas ratified the treaty in 1990, Joseph Darville, vice-president of Rights Bahamas, asked whether a “simple” ratification would be adequate without “corresponding legal framework” or the “cultural integration of basic principles.”
Mr Darville said: “It’s time we not only hold our politicians accountable, but also our law enforcers. First, we see a young girl being battered but the elected minister in charge of protecting the public refuses to acknowledge its abusive nature.”
“Then, we have eight-year-old assaulted without police warning parents of the community of the possible threat – only for it to happen again to a 12-year-old? It’s ridiculous, especially considering that we made an international promise, nearly three decades ago, to protect children in this country,” he said.
Activist groups across the country have reacted to the assaults, calling for the implementation of a sexual offenders registry, a separate sexual offenders court, and reform in the judicial system and at a cultural level.