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Nov 22, 2019

All About Children’s Rights

On the occasion of International Children’s Day, a special sitting of the House was convened in which young students assumed the role of parliamentarians, all thirty-one members of the House. The sitting on Wednesday gave the youths the opportunity to be heard on the issues that are critical to their development as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Belize is a signatory. On Wednesday, there was focus on education and health, and in the following story, Hipolito Novelo, looks at the issue of child labour.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

The Children’s Parliament on Wednesday touched on a number of issues still affecting children countrywide today. These young parliamentarians took the seat where elected policy makers would sit during a House Sitting. They were tasked in representing the children of Belize and bring to the forefront issues, in areas such as education, health, and safety and protection, still affecting children today. On the topic of child labour, this young parliamentarian pointed out that about seventy-six percent of working children live in rural areas.


Young Parliamentarian

“More than a quarter of employed children work over forty five hours per week. Almost a quarter children that are employed live in Cayo and twenty-three percent live in Corozal. About four percent of children are both working and attending school. Their academic performance is affected by child labour very much. Furthermore they become vulnerable to pedophiles and others who want to harm. They become vulnerable when they are out trying to sell their merchandise in the community.”


The scenario that was described is real and continues to occur to this day; many of us have seen children working on the streets, exposed to predators. But those predators are sometimes found in the homes.


Young Parliamentarian

“We have seen too often, too many cases of child abuse and their impact in our country in the news.  Take the case reported on December fourteenth, 2015 Channel Five news cast of the seventeen-year old who sexually assaulted his three young relatives. Or take the case in February 2014 of the fifteen year old boy who sexually assault his three year old neighbour and very recently reported on October 2019 the case of the fourteen year old who sexually abuse a seven year old. I have no doubt that these men who committed these terrible acts were themselves abused. These heart wrenching cases of child abuse then speak to the graphic way in which child abuse negative impacts the victims, the abusers, and again in the process, caused the country to lose the future scientist, entrepreneurs, athletes, educations and actors.”


The children’s parliamentarian was a call by the children of Belize to the Government to enhance the enforcement of a right of a child as was promised when Belize ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child thirty years ago.


Young Parliamentarian

“Mr. Speaker article six, section one and two of the CRC states that all children have the right to life and that government should ensure that all children survive and develop healthy. Also article three states that all organizations concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child. However studies from UNICEF showed that only eight percent of the world’s children are fully protected by children’s right.  There are numerous crimes occurring in our tiny country. In Belize City alone, this year southside recorded twenty-four murders and north side with fifteen murders in the months of January and leading up to October. As my colleague mentioned a month ago, whenever a crime occurs police officer pick on those who fit their criteria based on their appearance or neighbourhood history. This is racial profiling and  being stereotypical Mr. Speaker.”


In other words, those who are entrusted to uphold the law break it.


Young Parliamentarian

“We should feel secure in the presence of our police officers and not the fear of being injured or our rights being infringed by the same very people who are meant to uphold them. Over the years, police officers have had violent encounters with the community where they have aggressively gone into neighbourhoods to seek those who are allegedly criminals in an unacceptable and inhumane manner. Do you think it is right Mr. Speaker for our children to witness and to be exposed to these traumatic events taking place between parents, relatives, friends and our very own police officers? These repeated negative behaviors by some police officers have resulted in our youths losing the trust and confidence in those in authority.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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