THE HAGUE–Abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation of children, poverty and teenage pregnancies are some of the issues facing children in the Dutch Caribbean, according to preliminary findings of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF.
To redress some of these pressing issues and to invest in guaranteeing the basic rights of children, four parties in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, led by the Christian Union (CU), took the initiative to submit a motion requesting the Dutch government to reserve a minimum of 750,000 euros in 2013 budget.
Member of Parliament (MP) Gert-Jan Segers of CU, supported by Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and Roelof Bisschop of the reformed SGP party, wants the additional funds to be used to strengthen the existing cooperation programmes for expert and technical support in the area of children’s rights.
Segers said during the handling of the draft 2013 budget for Kingdom Relations on Wednesday and Thursday that UNICEF’s preliminary conclusions showed that extra efforts are very much needed; existing programmes are insufficient and local knowhow and expertise is lacking on the islands.
The preliminary conclusions of the situation analysis of Aruba and Curaçao mention, among other things, significant abuse and neglect of children in these countries.
Initiatives of the Curaçao government to tackle the trade in children and sexual exploitation of children are insufficient. Youth delinquency facilities in Curaçao are lacking. As a result youngsters of 16 and 17 are often locked up together with adults in prison, where there are insufficient educational facilities. There are insufficient alternative sanctions for youth delinquents in Curaçao.
Curaçao and Aruba youngsters are dropping out of school and there are not enough mechanisms to get this group back into school. Education in the countries is based on the Dutch system and does not relate to the local situation. There are few educational facilities for special needs children and high quality, affordable afterschool facilities are lacking.
Obesity is a big problem among children in Curaçao and Aruba. Healthy food is expensive and children are insufficiently engaged in sports activities. Integral policy is lacking in this area. The active involvement of children and youngsters in policies that relate to them is scarce.
Teenage pregnancies are a recurring issue in Curaçao and Aruba. A contributing factor is that parents do not discuss sexuality sufficiently with their children. Sexual education in schools is inadequate.
UNICEF researchers were faced with a lack of statistical data on children’s rights especially in Curaçao and St. Maarten. This slowed down the research and required researchers to make a broad study to obtain a more complete view of the situation in which children are growing up.
The situation analysis of St. Maarten was not yet available at the time of the debate in the Second Chamber. Children’s rights were also looked at in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, which as public entities have become the responsibility of The Netherlands. The results of the studies on the different islands will be presented publically in February 2013.
The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports has already invested a lot in improving youth care facilities and child/youth welfare in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, stated Dutch caretaker State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sports Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner on Friday in response to written questions posed by MPs Cynthia Ortega-Martijn and Esther Wiegman-Van Meppelen Scheppink of the CU.
When the United Nations Committee for Children’s Rights pointed out in 2009 that it had serious concerns about children’s right in the then-Netherlands Antilles, the islands and The Netherlands decided to make youth affairs a priority. Additional funds were made available in 2009 and 2010.
Together with the local governments and organisations on the islands and the Dutch Inspection of Youth Care, many improvements were made in youth care facilities on the three islands. Centres for Youth and Family Affairs were set up, leisure time facilities for youngsters ages 12 and up were improved, youth care was developed, family guardianship was improved and the Court of Guardianship was strengthened.
Professionals are being trained using the Positive Parenting Programme method and parents are being involved. In the coming two years authorities will focus on further improvement of youth health care, support for parents in the upbringing of teenage children, strengthening of sexual education, coaching of teenage mothers, the use of so-called “neighbourhood moms” and an integral approach to combat abuse of children.
Veldhuijzen van Zanten-Hyllner stated that conferences on children’s abuse had taken place in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with all stakeholders. “These conferences were the start to come to an integral approach to combat children’s abuse and to come to agreements that specifically cater to the local needs and possibilities,” she stated.
She assured that the structural improvement of the position of children had her attention.