By Makutu Manneh
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation on children on Tuesday 29th October 2019 told the press that The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) can be conducive to creating a better climate in the Gambia.
She said Gambians need to eradicate the culture of silence on sexual violence. Madam Maud said this is because when she visited some places in the Gambia, she was told that there is the culture of silence in the Gambia due to people not reporting cases of sexual assault for a reason that Gambian people don’t want to be identified with such criminal offences either as a victim or perpetrator.
“TRRC can be encouraging in creating a better climate because recently it is where we are seeing people coming out more confidently to speak,” she said.
She said this is a big issue and there is need to sanitize the Gambian society. She added that Gambians should allow their children to speak up and to make the parents understand that these are crimes which should be eradicated and that they should stop facilitating these crimes.
The human rights adviser said some of the issues that need to be addressed urgently in The Gambia include the need for additional resources, not about funding but about providing various sectors with appropriate training and knowledge on how to address issues of sexual violence against children in terms of prevention and care measures for children victims.
“Resources also mean facilities, shelters, victims of violence need to be taken care of,” she emphasised.
The Special Rapporteur said children who have to be abandoned as a result of living in the streets are children who should be assisted and there should be proper training, particularly by law enforcement officials, to be able to identify victims of trafficking and children at risk so as to ensure that children are being referred to child protection services in the Gambia.
She further said there is a clear need for those services to be based on real knowledge on how to address such issues. “More shelters, more staffs equipped to deal with these very difficult issues, particularly the front line people like the police,” she pointed out.
She also called for better coordination between all the sectors within ministries, other child rights protection sectors and civil society, noting that everybody needs to know what to do, including the children who should know who to turn to.
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio is invited by the government of the Gambia to help the government promote and protect the rights of children and evaluate the risks and forms of exploitation, along with the measures already adopted to fight the problem and examine the challenges that remain.