Editorial comment – Protecting our children

FWCC co-ordinator Shamima Ali in Suva. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU/FILE

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre coordinator Shamima Ali has a message for all parents: “Never leave a child to take care of young children or infants!”

She believes children should be left in the care of someone you really trust. Her reaction came in the wake of recent reports of sexual attacks on children by children. Last month a 12-year-old boy was charged with the rape of his three-year-old cousin.

This happened after the boy had raped an eight-month-old baby the day before in Nadi. In another incident, two children aged 10 and seven were suspects in a case involving a sexual attack on a three-year-old in Vatukoula.

Parents and guardians, Ms Ali said, needed to be mindful that Fiji had laws which made it illegal for children and infants to be left in the care of any person under the age of 18 years. What is happening is serious, and a major concern.

The question is what are we doing about child sexual abuse? What are we doing to understand the triggers for such behaviour?

It is shocking that this is even happening here. While organisations like the FWCC are already focused on critical areas they feel need to be addressed, what will matter is how the rest of us are challenged to do something about this issue.

We have been reminded over the weeks, months and years about stats on the issue of child sexual abuse in general. We know a lot of the perpetrators were family members, people the victims knew.

Now we need to be reminded about attributing factors, and appreciate the role we play to fight this. It is good that concern has been raised and that there is some commitment to ensure our children are safe.

But this shouldn’t be the only course of action. That should start from home. It starts by us understanding the need for our children to be able to grow up in an environment that is safe and instills confidence and a sense of security in them.

We should be providing a platform that is conducive to a healthy child growing up feeling safe and secure. We should empower our children, love them and give them the attention and guidance they need to reach their full potential.

We should be a nation dedicated to protecting children from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Then there is the challenge of empowerment, when our children understand and value relationships, and the rights of others.

It is sad that such incidents are happening around us, but they should motivate us to do the right thing. Let’s keep our children safe!

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