The Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples' Affairs, The Office of the Special Envoy for the Development of Families & Children and the National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) condemn any behavior that threatens the wellbeing of Belize's children, especially the recent reports of minors being sexually assaulted.
Sexual abuse continues to be the second most reported form of child abuse. Statistical data from the Department of Human Services shows a total of 220 sexual abuse/assault reports from January to June 2021 and 366 reports in 2020. Children who have been assaulted suffer physical, psychological, and emotional distress. The long-term effects on the child can lead him or her to display a range of negative emotional and behavioral reactions.
Articles 34 and 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child state that children have the right to be free from sexual abuse and they have a right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, in body or mind. It is, therefore, critical for parents to discuss abuse with their children as studies have shown that such acts are often committed by someone they know.
We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional stress and challenges on families as they navigate loss of employment, anxiety and uncertainty about their safety and well-being. These conditions have increased the vulnerability of our children and demonstrate the need for intentionality in establishing a safety plan to protect them. We recognize that as a country, more needs to be done in all our communities to keep our children safe; however, this can only be achieved by working together.
The ministry, The Office of the Special Envoy and the NCFC affirm our commitment to protect young girls and boys from predators. We will continue to work with our governmental and non-governmental partners to ensure that laws, policies and services are responsive to the needs of families and children.
Family members, teachers, school administrators, medical practitioners and all other persons who work with or provide services to children are reminded that as outlined in the Child Abuse Reporting Regulations, all suspected cases of child abuse must be reported to Belize Police Department and the Department of Human Services.