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Sep 15, 2015

Awareness Campaign on Sexual Violence is Launched

Acts of sexual violence against boys and girls are constant despite a number of new measures in place that provide more protection to victims and make it harsher for perpetrators of the crime. One way to prevent this scourge is through awareness and getting people to reject all forms of sexual exploitation. This morning, a third campaign was launched by the relevant government agency to build on a holistic approach in dealing with this persistent problem. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The sexual exploitation of and sexual violence against children is a serious issue plaguing the world.  In Belize, there are constant incidents that have slipped under the radar. Since 2004, the Youth Enhancement Services, YES, and the Ministry of Human Development have been working on the ground to reach out to the victims as well as the perpetrators of sexual crimes against girls and boys.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“It is very much as I said, part and parcel of a more holistic response on sexual violence and all its forms—human trafficking, sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, even issues of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. And the expertise of the YES, as you know, is to focus on children and young people; usually especially girls, but they are expanding out to also include boys because boys sometimes are very much silent victims of sexual violence. So they really have a complete gender perspective on this in terms of looking at how things manifest for girls as well as boys as young men and women.”

 

Today, a campaign ad—the third of its kind—entitled, “Sexual Violence Is No Joke,” was launched at a brief ceremony at the Biltmore Plaza with a commercial advertisement. The campaign will last three years and seeks to get the society to stop sexual crimes in its tracks. This, says Director Karen Cain, is because some of these crimes occur within the home setting by acts of commission or omission by the family.

 

Karen Cain

Karen Cain, Director, YES

“We have launched two previous campaigns. One was entitled back in 2004, No Means No; Use Your Voice – that campaign was encouraging young people to speak up against sexual violence. The second campaign, My Future is Not For Sale, was about the sexually exploited child—the sugar momma, the sugar daddy syndrome. This campaign is based off those two campaigns because those issues are still affecting us today and that is why we are saying Sexual Violence Is No Joke. We want this campaign to be geared towards young people in general, especially since they just returned back to school. We are asking young men and women to report these cases, seek help wherever necessary and our aim will be going into communities, trying to do more public awareness on the issue because at times, it is still a taboo…people are afraid to talk about it. When you mention sex, they get giggly and nervous and don’t want to talk about it.”

 

For C.E.O. in the Ministry of Human Development, this public education piece is just as important as the interventions and laws recently put in place to address sexual crimes perpetrated against the youth.

 

Judith Alpuche

“As you know in the recent past, we have passed legislation to give us better legal tools to deal with perpetrators; things like broadening the definition of sexual assault and abuse, actually recognizing that both boys are victims of violence or abuse as well as women as perpetrators of sexual violence. And so the laws have really….the amendment of the criminal code, the passage of the commercial sexual exploitation prohibition act, the new trafficking in persons prohibition act really gives us better tools to work with this. But it has to be a holistic response and this is the first piece of the puzzle, the prevention piece; because we will not truly eradicate sexual violence until society stands up and says this is not acceptable; this is not what we want for our children, for our young people, this is not what we want for our women or our men.”

 

The advocacy campaign is being funded by the UN Trust To End Violence Against Women.

 

Judith Alpuche

“Under our women’s department, we are administering funds from the UN Trust To End Violence Against Women and it has been ongoing for the past two and half or so years. We are actually at the tail-end and it has many components including training for the various stakeholders and front line personnel. The refinement and even development of protocols and procedures, etc…all on the whole issue of gender based violence.”

 

Karen Cain

“So many times, campaigns are geared towards helping the victims, but we want to speak to the conscience if there is such a thing of the perpetrators to say look, what would you do if this happen to your own sister, your mother, your father? The commercial we show today will highlight something like that.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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