Shadow Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms Volda Lawrence, says that, in principle, her party will support the Childcare and Protection Agency Bill of 2008, which was recently tabled by Minister Priya Manickchand.
According to Lawrence, Guyana is way behind its Caribbean counterparts as it relates to legislation such as the proposed one.
She emphasized, however, that the Bill as is was very confusing, and as such the party will ask for it to be sent to a select committee “for some tidying up.”
In tabling the Bill, Manickchand said that it was a long awaited Bill which seeks to ensure that children are protected by law in Guyana.
The legislation, which was one of Manickchand’s mandates for 2008, provides for the establishment of the Childcare and Protection Agency, and sets out the functions of the agency, which include monitoring childcare facilities.
It also allows the agency to intervene in cases where there is child abuse, and to protect vulnerable children.
The legislation also provides for the minister to appoint the Director and other officers and employees, who shall be responsible for the management of the agency in accordance with directions issued by the minister under the Act.
It also states that the welfare of the child is paramount, and matters relating to a child, whether before a court or any other authority, shall be determined without undue delay, taking into consideration certain criteria set out, including the wishes of the child and his age and capacity to understand the matter to be determined.
Disclosure of information relating to the identity of a child, once passed in the National Assembly, will be prohibited in proceedings.
Alliance For Change leader Raphael Trotman, in an invited comment recently, told this newspaper that his party will support any forward-looking legislation, such as bills that seek to eliminate or punish social injustices, and as such will support Manickchand’s Childcare Bill.
He did remark that the Government appeared to be very imbalanced, in that Manickchand recently tabled several pieces of forward-looking legislation; but, on the other hand, other sections of the Government seemed to be condoning social ills, such as torture.
The latest bill to be tabled aims at protecting children, and is expected to be followed by other pieces of legislation also aimed at the protection of children.
Manickchand recently told a children’s conference that five new laws are being developed to protect the rights of children.
She added that drafting of the Sexual Offences Bill has been completed, and that she expects it will be presented in the National Assembly soon.
Manickchand told Kaieteur News, after the opening of the conference, that the five new laws being drafted relate to child protection, child care, adoption, and child custody.
She told children at the opening of the conference that the Government is committed to protecting them, and will strive to do everything for them to be what they can be.
Rueshanna Boyce, a third form student of St Rose’s High School, who had delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony, had called for all Guyanese to play a part in protecting children. She said that every child has the right to be protected, as each one is special and has equal rights.
Boyce lamented the fact that some parents keep children away from school, abuse them, and encourage them into child labour.
She said that, instead of parents dismissing children as “dunces” and saying they are “not learning,” parents should sit and work with them. “You should be the ones to impart to us parental guidance, morals and values,” Ms Boyce told parents.
She added that both parents and teachers play an important role in a child’s education, and she implored them to work together.
Boyce spoke out against the abuse of children, saying that some are “cuffed, kicked and screamed at,” but are still expected to rise above it all and perform well. She pointed out that some children make poor choices because they don’t feel worthy and don’t feel a sense of being loved.
“We need to know in our hearts that we are loved,” she declared.
She listed parents, care givers, teachers, religious leaders, policemen and doctors among those who have the responsibility of ensuring children are protected.
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