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Growth in violence and sexual abuse of children

In Paraguay, the conditions causing vulnerability of children are becoming more acute. But it is not an isolated phenomenon, nor even one that has just appeared recently. In the last five years, over sixteen thousand cases of sexual abuse of children have been recorded. In 2022 there are already over a thousand victims.  

 

Lourdes Pérez Navarro

 

In the five-year period, 2019 was the year with the greatest number of victims recorded: 3,284, followed by 2021 (with 2,957) and 2020, with 2,672.

These worrying figures are recorded in a report by the Public Ministry which shows how in last May alone twelve complaints for these reasons were reported daily and in April 1,151 victims were attended to.

Specialists warn that the decrease detected in 2020 and 2021 did not mean a reduction in the number of cases, but rather it was due to the absence of the support networks that report (teachers, relatives, circles of friends and community agents) due to the restrictions and quarantines imposed to tackle Covid-19.

According to the public prosecutor’s office, the areas where habitually the most cases are recorded are Central, Alto Paraná, Asunción, Itapúa, Caaguazú, San Pedro y Cordillera.

In 2004 a minor aged 11, by the name of Felicita and who sold mandarins, was raped and murdered at the foot of Yaguarón hill. She was found lifeless and with signs of having been sexually abused after going missing the previous day. She was in the first grade at school and in the afternoons she sold mandarins to be able to survive.

After the incident, the Co-ordinator for the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Paraguay Network for the Right to Education issued a statement in which they said that the state institutions, and especially the ones concerned with education, must be places of protection and safety for students.

They highlighted the urgency of drawing up a public policy of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, abandoned since 2011, and demanded tangible progress in its implementation, since it teaches to look after oneself and not to harm other people.

According to the Co-ordinator, the absence of the said policy exposes children and adolescents to different sorts of abuse, sexual violence and discrimination.

That is why they considered it important to provide more training to the teaching teams, technicians and managers of the educational system to achieve an effective comprehensive approach to this area with students, their families and communities.

There is agreement on this point from Carlos Flecha, an educator at the Callescuela organisation, for whom information is fundamental in the fight against the terrible problem of the violence that minors suffer.

He points out that such violence generally occurs in the family or community environment precisely because of the lack of information and participation of children in knowing their rights and being listened to.

Fleche says that one of the causes is the structural violence that the state generates through the lack of support and accompaniment to the necessary education, leaving children in conditions of greater vulnerability.

However, these claims are not founded on legislative gaps since Paraguay has adequate laws to safeguard the comprehensive protection of minors – but are they applied?

An example of this is the Childhood and Adolescent Code which recognises the importance of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, regulations that did not fare well as in 2011 the authorities put the brakes on its implementation.

To this another obstacle has been added: in 2017 the Ministry of Education and Science banned the dissemination and use of materials referring to gender theory or ideology in educational institutions.

Also in force is law number 6202, promulgated in 2018, which aims to prevent sexual abuse and guarantee comprehensive attention to children and adolescents who are victims of sexual violence, but the route for its execution was not finalised. Paraguay has then the challenge of setting in motion solid and viable actions to tackle this phenomenon, actions that are capable of involving all of society and the institutions, in the interest of protecting those who today are the country’s future. (PL)

(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: philipwalkertranslation@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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