Mrs. Simpson Miller said that recent events involving children have left her sad.
“These horrendous acts against our children, including murder, are unacceptable. The brutal killing of our children is a vile and dreadful occurrence that is alien to our culture. I am also concerned about instances of parental neglect. Children who are neglected are exposed to violence, sexual abuse and murder.
“The abuse of our children must never be condoned by anyone under any circumstances,” she said.
“What have we become, when as a society we hurt and kill our children? As a country, we are destroying the social fabric of the society and blighting our collective future when we abuse and hurt our children,” she said, extending sympathies again to the “grieving parents and relatives of those children who have lost their lives as a result of violence against them.
“The grief of family members who have lost young ones is real and the pain is unbearable. Too many of our children are being subjected to heartrending violence and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, many times carried out by family members and other persons they trust. This must be dealt with immediately and firmly.”
May is being observed as “Child Month” and the government said children will also be the focus of Labour Day activities on May 25 under the theme “Labour of Love: Nurturing Our Children”.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller said that she would continue to speak out against child abuse and violence and was urging “all Jamaicans to raise our voices and speak out against such evil.
“Government is taking tough action in light of the continuing instances of children being murdered and mistreated,” she said, adding that Cabinet last week had a lengthy discussion on the matter.
“As a result, the Cabinet has approved a submission from the Minister of Justice to, among other things, prescribe harsher penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children. They will meet the full force of the law.
“In these cases, the victim’s status as a child will be treated as an aggravating feature resulting in a harsher sentence on conviction,” she said, adding that Cabinet had also approved a proposal for those cases to be given priority treatment in the trial list, with respect to scheduling and disposal.
“Work is also underway for legislation to be passed to create a new offence of parental neglect. When this comes into effect, a parent whose child is found in circumstances consistent with inadequate parental care and attention,can be charged and tried for parental neglect.
“Such circumstances will include children found unsupervised on the streets or other public places late at night, or, a child, found living with an adult where the arrangement exposes the child to the risk of sexual or other abuse.”
Prime Minister Simpson Miller said that there are too many cases of children who are exposed to these dangers.
“A new provision will also be inserted in the legislation to expand the number of agencies to which reports of child abuse can be made.
“We must be committed to reporting all instances of child abuse to the relevant state agencies such as the Police, the Centre For the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children’s Registry,” she told the nation.