UNICEF Worried About Violence in the Lives of Jamaican Children and Adolescents

“He hit me first!”

A memory turns itself over. We were driving in heavy traffic somewhere in town, when we observed a scene being played out by the side of the road. A group of adults and one child – a small boy, maybe four or five years old, was being loudly reprimanded by an adult man. Cursing. The boy started to cry. In what might have been a habitual gesture of self-defence, he raised his arm as if to deflect a blow, a sad little response. He barely touched the big strapping man – who responded by clapping the boy on the side of his head. Hard. The boy cried much harder, and the verbal abuse continued.

We leaned out and shouted at the man: Don’t do that! The man shouted back: “He hit me first!”

A small boy.

So, a video landed in my Facebook timeline today that quite startled me. I played it several times. It was darkly disturbing. Several parrots were recorded, sitting in their human owners’ homes – cursing and swearing (and with great feeling). We know that parrots repeat what they hear – repeatedly. And they must have heard these words, sneering insults and anger, quite a few times.

One parrot said plaintively, “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me.” 

The video – from UNICEF – said “If a parrot can remember what happens in an abusive home, imagine a child.”

UNICEF Jamaica launched three reports today – two global reports, and one from the Ministry of National Security – on children and violence. They do not make comfortable reading. But then, how could anyone feel comfortable with these statistics?

What is happening in the entire Latin America/Caribbean region, though? Nearly half of all adolescent homicides occur in this region, although it comprises slightly less than 10 per cent of the global adolescent population. Homicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the only region that has seen an increase (albeit relatively small) in homicide rates among adolescents aged 10 to 19 since 2007.

Some of the figures regarding Jamaica are particularly alarming on a global scale. For example, Jamaica is one of a few countries where younger children are more likely to be subjected to physical punishment compared to their older counterparts.

Another frightening statistic: More Jamaican children have been murdered to date in 2017 than for the year 2016, and significantly more girls. Moreover, Jamaica is among the ten countries globally with the highest mortality rates (deaths per 100,000) from homicide and from collective violence among girls aged 10 to 19 years in 2015.

On the matter of corporal punishment in schools, Minister of State with responsibility for Youth Floyd Green says that although the Government already has a policy against it, it is not illegal. The Government will be moving to rectify this. 

But oh, so much more to be done! Let’s start by caring – REALLY, actively caring.


Here is UNICEF Jamaica’s press release, below:

UNICEF Concerned About Violence Against Children in Jamaica

KINGSTON, 1 November 2017 – UNICEF is deeply concerned about the violence that plagues Jamaican children, who are among staggering numbers of children across the world experiencing violence – according to a new report released today.

UNICEF’s global report, A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents uses the latest data to show that globally children experience violence across all stages of childhood and in all settings.

UNICEF Jamaica launched A Familiar Face today. Two other reports were launched at the same event – Global Report 2017: Ending Violence in Childhood, presented by the UWI Mona Faculty of Medical Sciences, and a 2016 update of data on children and violence, presented by the Jamaica Crime Observatory, Ministry of National Security (I am not sure if this is online).

A Familiar Face focuses on violence in four areas:

Violence against young children in their homes

  • Close to 300 million (3 in 4) children aged 2-4 worldwide experience violent discipline by their parents/caregivers at home on a regular basis; 250 million (around 6 in 10) are punished by physical means.
  • In Jamaica, 8 in 10 children ages 2-14 in Jamaica experience some form of violent discipline.

Sexual violence against girls and boys

  • Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lifetime.
  • Only 1 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced sexual violence said they reached out for professional help.
  • In Jamaica, among 10-15 year-olds, 24% of girls say they were forced to have sex on their first sexual encounter.
  • 25% of 15-24 year olds who experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner sought help.

Violent deaths among adolescents

  • Globally, every 7 minutes an adolescent is killed by an act of violence.
  • Homicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • In Jamaica, according to Jamaica Constabulary Force statistics: for the period January 1-October 21, 2017 – a total of 47 children were murdered: 29 males and 18 females. During the same period in 2016, a total of 32 children were murdered: 26 Males and 6 females. In total in 2016, 41 children were murdered: 33 males and 8 females.
  • Notably, more children have been murdered to date in 2017 than for the year 2016, and significantly more girls.

Violence in schools

  • Close to 130 million students ages 13-15 experience bullying.
  • Half the population of school-age children – 732 million – live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited.
  • In Jamaica, 6 in 10 students say they have been bullied at some point in their lives.
  • While corporal punishment is outlawed in early childhood institutions, it remains legal at higher levels of schooling.
Mark Connolly, Jamaica Resident Representative, UNICEF at an event earlier this year. (My photo)

 Speaking at the launch event, UNICEF Jamaica Representative Mark Connolly said the new reports indicate deeply worrying concerns for children across the world and in Jamaica. “UNICEF Jamaica is particularly alarmed by the number of Jamaican children who die violently and who are regularly subjected to sexual violence and violent discipline in their homes, schools and communities,” said Connolly.

To prevent and reduce violence against children, UNICEF Jamaica is urging the Government of Jamaica to urgently prioritize and accelerate efforts to:

  • Reduce the rate of child homicide.
  • Strengthen social services for children who have experienced violence, in particular victims of sexual violence.
  • Fully outlaw the use of violent discipline in schools.
  • Educate children, parents, teachers, and community members to recognise violence in all its many forms and to use alternative non-violent methods of discipline.
  • Collect better disaggregated data on violence against children.

UNICEF Jamaica supports both government and non-governmental organizations to address violence against children. The organization supports school-based efforts designed to reduce violence and promote positive values and behaviour, such as the School-wide Positive Behaviour and Intervention Support (SWPBIS) initiative being piloted in 60 schools, led by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

UNICEF also supports community-based efforts to prevent acts of violence before they begin, lead children away from gangs and use non-violent means of conflict resolution, primarily through the work of organizations like the Peace Management Initiative and Fight for Peace.

UNICEF Jamaica also influences the development of laws and policies to help ensure they better protect children, chief among them the Child Care and Protection Act.


For more information about the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, please go to www.end-violence.org/.

For more information on the global and local reports, please contact:

Allison Brown, UNICEF Jamaica, Mobile: 279-8339, albrown@unicef.org

2 thoughts on “UNICEF Worried About Violence in the Lives of Jamaican Children and Adolescents

  1. Educate our boys and young men to be responsible citizens and take necessary preventive measures to avoid unwanted pregnancies in young women, childcare and protection for the young. We have witnessed the callousness and cruelty to our children on a daily basis. We know some of these abuses evolve out of an unplanned pregnancy, and the frustration of the parent. Plethora of media reports convey adequate testimony that we have an epidemic of child abuse in our global society. A child who grows up under a harsh love-less condition develops risky impulsive behavior, more prone to peer pressure, and is more likely to gravitate to crime. The young child that is deprived of emotional bonding with the parents, will have brain and growth impediment due to deficiency in nutrients, lack of education, social skills, and the necessary tools to fit into society – becoming incorrigible. These behavioral disorders emerge in the formative years, and persist into adulthood.
    There is good evidence to show that when countries invest in both parents and children together, there is a far better stability for families.


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