The Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Women and Youth, has recently signed into law the Families and Children (Child Abuse Reporting) Regulations 1999. This new law will now make it mandatory for people to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities. The new regulations state that anyone who has reason to believe or has information that a child has suffered or is suffering from child abuse has a responsibility to contact the police.
To aid in this endeavor, Belize Telecommunications has offered a hotline to the National Organization for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NOPCA) and National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC). This will allow free calls to be received from persons wanting to report these incidents. The Ministry of National Security is also developing a Family and Violence Unit within the Police Department to deal with this type of crime.
The penalty for conviction of not reporting these situations is a fine up to one thousand dollars and/or imprisonment up to six months. Additionally it will demand stronger penalties for persons convicted of child molestation or abuse.
Minister Balderamos Garcia through the NCFC is also submitting to publications, weekly columns featuring Facts for Families on Child Abuse and Molestation. These articles will furthermore provide information and advice to families in an effort to help protect their children. Topics will include Child Molesters, who are they, how to recognize them and their attitudes; Which children are high risk targets; Safety measures; What to do if your child is abused or molested; and Indicators of sexual abuse in pre-school and elementary school children. Subsequent subjects will focus on a wide range of topics including AIDS and drugs.
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