“You bring a child into this world, the responsibility is yours to ensure that child’s safety and protection. You should not bring a child into the world if you are unable to provide nurturing and caring for that,” Browne told reporters on Wednesday night.
The minister was speaking after a dinner honouring four-year-old Vrishni Sanjanaa Maharaj at Crowne Plaza, Wrightson Road in Port-of-Spain. The young girl was feted for her ability to recite all verses of the Hanuman Chaalisa Hindu, special prayers dedicated to the Hindu God Hanuman by Tulsidas who wrote the Holy Ramayan.
Conveying his condolences to the family of eight-year-old Hope Arismandez, who was brutally murdered and whose body was discovered in a cane field on Tuesday, Browne said Government was advocating harsher penalty for crimes against children.
“We are taking more seriously any act of abuse or neglect against children. Let us not assume that the passage of a law alone is going to take care of this problem, that’s not going to happen and I want us to be realistic about this. The role of the family and the community remains critical,” Browne said.
The minister also asked members of various sectors of the society to refrain from politicising the tragedy. He said investigations have revealed that there had been no previous abuse or neglect of Hope and advised against trying to extrapolate a connection between the children’s package before the House of Representatives.
“I think most of society is well aware that after some period of time that two significant pieces of children’s legislation are currently on the Order Paper of the Lower House of Parliament. I fully anticipate that by the middle of June, at the latest, they will begin on this package.
“I anticipate a vigorous, energetic but constructive debate with a number of children’s issues on safety rights and protection would be discussed,” Browne said.
The minister said a disciplinary committee has been established within the ministry that was paving the way for the establishment of the children’s authority issues such as identification of premises working for the Ministry of Public Administration.
Browne said even though public awareness had increased regarding child abuse, and there were more aggressive laws with regards to children’s rights and safety, there was still an increase in crimes against children.
“It’s all over the world including the United States, so we have to recognise that there is a missing ingredient. It is not just a legislative framework, or tightening thereof, it’s not just systems or authorities, but there is a social component as well that speaks to the individual responsibility of citizens, family members and communities to be very aggressive in reporting any potential, or suspected case of abuse or neglect or child endangerment,” Browne said.
“The State, or the Government, will never be able to look through every window, or every doorway, and we need to recognise that, so there is a key component that we need to strengthen.”
He said the ministry was finalising a package of public service announcements and other communication material addressing the rights of the child, helping to educate the public with regard to some of the dangerous signs for which persons ought to be on the lookout.