Wednesday, January 17, 2018

‘Govt to look at laws to protect children at home’

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said her Government will look at legislation that can offer protection to children in their homes.

She was responding to questions from the media on the posting of a video on Facebook showing a woman beating her daughter with a belt after the 12-year-old girl posted indecent pictures of herself on the site. 

Persad-Bissessar, who also holds the portfolio of Minister of the People and Social Development, was speaking at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel, Port of Spain, where the ministry held its annual salutation to centenarians.

Asked her views on the video which went viral, Persad-Bissessar said, “Yes, most unfortunate, most, most unfortunate. I saw the photograph in one of the print media. I didn’t see the video itself.”

Questioned on how she felt about the issue, being a mother herself, Persad-Bissessar responded, “I would not do that if it were me. I do not know what the circumstances were. I do not know if any circumstances warrant assaulting a child in that manner. I do not want to pronounce on that, but if it were me I would not do it. However, your question is the more important one—should the State take a more active role in protecting the children in their homes? And my answer to that is yes.”

She said the Gender Ministry will look at legislation to see what can be done.

The Prime Minister said it would be premature to make any pronouncements on the said incident without any proper evidence at hand, and she was certain that the Gender Ministry and Children’s Authority were looking into the case.

She noted that in her last incarnation in Government, she had brought legislation to ban corporal punishment in schools, which was a recommendation of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee at that time.

“I do not believe the legislation has any room within it now for what takes place in the home, and it is something we will have to look into,” she said.

“I think it would be difficult to intervene, I know in more developed countries you do have legislation prohibiting parents from assaulting children,” she added.

The Prime Minister was reluctant to give further opinion on the matter, as she pointed out it was not clear who posted the video and whether the video was in fact real.

She said it was possible to use someone’s else image on videos. “I am very wary unless I have strong evidence to make pronouncements,” she said.