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Sep 27, 2013

A bill to update criminal code for sexual offences against children

Kim Simplis Barrow

As we reported earlier, the House meeting today saw both sides of the floor trading barbs over the passport scandal, which has seen the Minister of State, Elvin Penner fired and several employees of the immigration department put on suspension. But the business of the day was actually to table several bills. One such law is the criminal code, as it relates to sexual offences against children and persons with mental disabilities. Referred to as an archaic legislation, Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis Barrow has been lobbying for the past five years to have this legislation updated. The bill, according to a release sent out by the office of Simplis Barrow, contains provisions to “strengthen the penalties for sexual crimes committed against children and provide equal protection for male and female children from carnal knowledge, rape, incest, abduction, kidnapping and procurement by male or female offenders.” Simplis Barrow spoke of the achievement.

 

Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children

“My office having been working for over five years to get the criminal code for child sexual abuse updated and it finally is going to the house today. It was a long process. A long process because we were consulting with judges and the different sectors to ensure that we have all our basics covered. This was not an easy task and we don’t take it lightly at all. I think that it is urgent, it is needed; there are many of our legislations that really we need to look at. But talking about this one specifically, I think, one of the very important things is to make it gender neutral. We talk about girls being abused, but what about our boys? Boys being abused by boys, boys being abused by women. So those are the things that we are addressing. We are addressing increased penalties for child abuse, child molestation and making it clear. It’s an introduction today; it’s the first start. I guess the entire Belizean society will get an opportunity to look at it if you are interested and to make recommendations and suggest changes. As we know, Children with special needs are the most abused in this world—not only in Belize, but in the world. Why? Because many of them don’t have a voice or who would believe you. Those are the comments that they would get. If you say anything, who would believe you? No one would believe you because you are this or you are that. So it is very important that we strengthen our laws to protect especially our most vulnerable…under that of course our children with disabilities. All children, but our children with disabilities need to be protected.”

 

And this evening, the amendments to the criminal code got support from the National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC). According to NCFC, the passage of this amendment bill would “see the increased compliance by Belize with the Convention of the rights of the Child…” and it “signals a pivotal move in the right direction.”

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