Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy speaks during the Budget debate in Parliament yesterday.

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Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with the responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, Ayanna Webster-Roy, says over 4,000 cases of child abuse were reported to the Children’s Authority last year.

Delivering her contribution to the 2020/21 Budget debate yesterday, Webster-Roy said a large chunk of those cases, disturbingly, were that of sexual abuse.

The alarming number of reports of child abuse and domestic violence, the minister said, has prompted a look at a revised approach to gender-based and domestic violence in the country.

“Despite the expansion of a Child Protection Unit and development of characters, children are still vulnerable to abuse. In 2019, a report of the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago noted that for the reporting period alone, over 4,000 cases of child abuse reported. Of these reported cases, 54.4% were female while male clients accounted for 43.3%. The highest instances of reports received across Trinidad and Tobago were cases of sexual abuse and that is 22.6%,” said Webster-Roy, who confirmed that neglect, at 20.6 per cent and physical abuse, at 14.3 per cent, were the second and third most reported cases.“Moreover, reports of sexual abuse, neglect and physical abuse consistently seem to be the highest reported types of abuse and maltreatment received by the authority over the past years of operation,” she said.

In January, the T&T Police Service’s Child Protection Unit confirmed that 590 charges had been laid for crimes against children in 2019.

Webster-Roy was also alarmed by the number of calls to the domestic violence hotline 800-SAVE.“During the period January 2019 to August 2020, a total of 11298 calls were made to the hotline,” she said.

She revealed that a special focus was placed on male-centric programmes, as men were widely seen as the perpetrators of domestic violence.“We will continue to focus programmes, particularly the male-centered programmes, to change behaviour among persons who perpetuate domestic violence and all other forms of gender-based violence and will build and deliver those programmes at all levels of communities and through various medium which highlight various forms of family violence and identify strategies to prevent such forms of violence. Every effort must be made stop gender-based violence before it happens in our communities,” Webster-Roy said.

However, she pointed out that while many point the fingers at males, the double standard with regard to the attitude towards female abuse of men must also be looked at.

“We all clamour for women to be respected and protected, while at the same time those of us who make the noise for women would be the ones on social media sharing a video of a young man being violated by a young woman in the bed,” she said.

“It goes both ways, respect and right goes across the spectrum, it’s not just about men not just forget about men, it’s not just about women, it’s about of us doing what is right.

“The Government is mindful that men are the main perpetrators of domestic violence and has increased support for men by several programmes and collaborations. We must find ways for men to understand them.”

These programmes, she explained, looked at techniques used by human traffickers, gender stereotypes and human trafficking methods to protect against human traffickers, exploitation through men as consumers, indicators and elements of human trafficking and men’s roles in ending the demand for human trafficking.