Jamaica's Silent Children
An investigation into the high rate of child sex abuse in Jamaica and the government's failure to protect its children.
Jamaica likes to portray itself as a tropical paradise - its sunshine and laid-back atmosphere attracting millions of tourists every year. But behind this idyllic picture lies a more sinister truth: this is a nation where child sex abuse is endemic.
According to the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, 40 percent of Jamaicans say that their first experience of sexual contact was forced and while still under the age of consent. More often than not, the perpetrator was someone close to home: a family member, teacher, community or religious leader.
Earlier this year, the Jamaican government launched "Breaking Silence," an awareness campaign encouraging victims to come forward. It has been heralded as an important step in combating the cycle of abuse. But, human rights groups say that taboos about reporting incest, rape and the abuse of power by older men are so entrenched that thousands of young Jamaican girls still continue to suffer in silence.
In a society where women are by and large still dependent on men for financial support, poverty and lack of employment opportunities are also driving sexual exploitation of teenage girls; sometimes their parents are even complicit, seeing sex as a legitimate way for a young girl to earn her keep.
Earlier this year, People & Power travelled the country in the company of a survivor, Jamaican writer and advocate Julie Mansfield, as she met with victims, government officials and law enforcement officers in a bid to raise awareness about this issue and achieve greater protections for the island's children.
*Where appropriate, parental consent was obtained for interviews with minors in this programme.
*For legal and privacy reasons some identities have been obscured.
Source: Al Jazeera