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Parliament a graveyard for child laws

 The evidence I offered on the dead-end legislative career of le­gis­la­-tion that would protect children was inadvertently omitted in the article headlined “O what a crying shame!” (Express, Decem­ber 18).

These prove there is an absence of effective concern for our children’s safety by politicians in the highest court of the land. That claim is supported by the fact that Parliament has become a graveyard for six pieces of legislation between 2000 and 2012, during the terms of administrations formed by the PNM (People’s National Movement) and variants of the UNC (United National Congress).

The Children’s Authority Act, 2000 was introduced to Parliament on November 19, 1999. It was partially proclaimed eight years after in 2008. Since 2000, various committees have had meetings, seminars and conferences on the process of implementation. The act establishes the Children’s Autho­ri­ty of Trini­dad and Tobago, with a mandate “...to act as the guardian of the children of Trinidad and Tobago”. 

The success of all the other legislation is dependent on the resources provided to the Children’s Authority. That cannot be subjected to a quick fix alone. To fully empower the Children’s Authority, as the Prime Minister has requested, the funds that have not been provi­ded in the budget of 2013-2014 have to be made available in quick time, and must be repeated in subsequent budgets. 

The Children’s Community Foster Homes and Nurseries Act, 2000 was also introduced to Parlia­ment on November 19, 1999. The status of this legislation is unclear. It was assented to on Octo­ber 23, 2000, but comes into operation on such day as is fixed by the Presi­dent by proclamation. Again, it is the Children’s Authority that must register these homes and nurseries.

Administrative and political paralysis seem to affect the Adop­tion of Children Act, 2000 and the Children Act, 2012, too, neither of which has been proclaimed.

The Family Court Bill, 2009 lapsed or was allowed to lapse on January 8, 2010. Yet the need for the expansion of the Family Court is observed repeatedly in every magistrate’s court outside of Port of Spain every day. The lawyers who are members of Parliament must know this. 

The Status of Children (Amendment ) Bill also lapsed on January 8, 2009. 

The responsibility to care for and protect children is everyone’s responsibility. On the evidence, the political leadership in the country is guilty of a crime of omission against our children. That negligence continues to have outrageous consequences of death, abuse, injury and emotional trauma to children who are unable to defend themselves.

It is a sign of a national indictment to observe that the backlog of decisions in the court of Parlia­ment parallels that in the high courts and magistrate’s courts. The talking heads in both jurisdictions should pay careful attention. I believe that observation is worth more than a casual reflection. 

Gloria Henry

Via e-mail

 
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