THERE was a local institution where East Indian girls had their hair cut as a form of punishment, reported activist Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. She was speaking yesterday at the Supreme Court Ceremonial Opening of the 2018-2019 Law Term Service of Divine Worship held at City Hall, Port of Spain.
She said up until recently when dealing with children it reflected the old-fashioned parenting way which involved punishment for wrongdoing.
"And that punishment, as we have seen on social media, can sometimes express itself by beating with pieces of wood and belt buckles until a child bled. Fortunately, we release that in Parliament as we speak changes are taking place in relation to corporal punishment of children.
Mahabir-Wyatt was likely referring to the Miscellaneous Provisions (Supreme Court of Judicature and Children) Bill.which bans corporal punishments at children's homes, nurseries and residences.
She continued: "But in the past and up until now our institutions have in fact sent children to institutions where they were not very well looked after. They have sent little girls to an institution whereas punishment East Indian little girls had their long hair cut off. I am sure that no judge intended for this to happen."
She said another punishment was to put the girls into a dark airless closet called "The Black Hole" which she witnessed while on a commission to investigate homes and institutions to which children were sent. "And there were similar places where little boys were sent where they were abused in many different ways and beaten."
She said children do commit crimes, steal, commit heartless acts without conscience, commit arson, assault on people and animals, and destroy property. She recalled two weeks ago a case of a 17-year-old boy who raped a 15-month-old girl and she died.
"Children do commit crimes and they do because they have learned from us." She said the children learned from what they see us do and have experienced in their communities, from the press, listening to radio and what see on television.
"They do it because they want to become big and strong and feared the way they think we are. We know we're not but they think we are."
She also recalled a few years ago report in the press of a little girl sent to a women's prison by a magistrate in San Fernando, which is against the law and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child article 12 which states we must listen to children.
She said it was discovered as a three or four-year-old the girl had been abused in her own home and the court had sent her for own safety to stay with a relative and three or four years later she was back in court because she was abused at the home she was sent.
She said in 2004, after many years of community advocacy, the Family Court pilot project became a physical reality. She added that it respected article 12 of the UN Convention that said children must be listened to and was the first time she can recall children by law were being listened. "It made a huge difference."