More child sexual abuse complaints in 1999 than ever before
- GHRA - suicide should be made major public health concern

Stabroek News
December 13, 1999

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) received more complaints of sexual abuse of children in 1999 than ever before, according to the text of a GHRA message to mark International Human Rights Day on Friday.

The message was delivered by Shanaza Ally of the Rights of the Child (ROC) at a ceremony at the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) building to formally mark International Human Rights Day. Ally noted that, in keeping with the decade year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the GHRA had focussed on child issues and had concluded that the generalised abuse of children is encouraged by the dominant values of the adult, particularly the male adult society.

"Uncontrolled sex and violence on television, racial hostility, environmental destruction, targeting of children as consumers [and] infidelity in relationships are values which society generally does not question," and which expose children to abuse, she said.

Ally observed that no investigatory procedures were in place to determine whether the 400 deaths annually of children under five years that have been certified as malnutrition, gastroenteritis or broncho-pneumonia were in fact due to abuse, poverty or incapacity of the parent.

On another note, Ally called for the issue of suicide among young people to be made a major public health concern given that in Region Six alone, 197 deaths by suicide were recorded between 1994 and 1996.

National statistics on suicide are unknown but according to Ally, the suggestion is that the major cause of deaths under 25 years is suicide.

In relation to the work of the GHRA, Ally reported that a series of training programmes had been carried out which looked at the environment in which young people function.

In the family environment, lack of guidance and freedom to express ideas were pinpointed as obstacles to the realisation of the rights of young people in general; in the educational environment, peer pressure and lack of discipline coupled with gender discrimination were highlighted while the twin evils of lack of freedom to change religion and discrimination against women were singled out in the religious environment.

Ally noted that in view of the confused values of the adult generation, it is essential that the younger generation be equipped to impact on the adult world.

She emphasised that "young people themselves must begin to assert influence over the values, laws and policies which control their lives and determine their future."

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples