“WHAT is wrong with Trinidad and Tobago?”
This was the question asked yesterday by Children’s Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin as he made the startling revelation that since the authority came into being in 2015, it has had to investigate 13,500 cases of crimes committed against the nation’s youth.
More horrifying is the fact that the abuse of most of the children, the authority chairman said, were acts committed by their parents. Benjamin said he would often cry when he reads reports of “atrocious acts” done to children which the authority has to deal with.
Benjamin delivered the sermon at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Harris Promenade in San Fernando when he made the statistics known. “It makes me weak when I listen to the types of cases are coming to us every day. I cannot help but shed a tear.
“I cannot help but try to understand what is wrong with TT. Our population is 1.3 million of which, 300,000 plus children are under the age of 18,” Benjamin said.
He told a packed congregation that there have been many troubling cases such as the incident where a 13-year- old turned to social media for help, saying her mother forced her into a life of prostitution. He referred to another case where a child was neglected and abused and kept in a cage.
“You see somewhere along the line, man has lost his way. We have lost our way and our children who are the most vulnerable among us, are treat like they don’t exist. We treat them as though they are nothing. We treat them as if they are second, third or fourth class humans,” Benjamin said.
He said that since the inception of the Children Authority in 2015, some 55,000 distress calls were made from people seeking protection for children being.
“We have 13,500 cases that require our attention for care and protection; 13,000 plus cases and the international statistics are saying to us that for every one call, there are four that were not made.” He said the authority receives 20 to 30 calls for care and protection a day.
“Sometimes I cannot sleep when the night comes because I have viewed video after video after video being sent to me. ‘Mr Benjamin I need you to investigate this’, or investigate that,” Benjamin said as he underscored the fact that TT’s youth are living in perilous times.
“Our data is showing sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect are the most prevalent...the highest numbers. But what is heart breaking about that, is that the data also shows that the very people charged with the responsibility of loving, caring and protecting our young ones, are the ones hurting our children,” Benjamin said.