Guatemala: Child abuse


By Alba Trejo

Guatemala, February (SEMlac). - Many local children are taken to hospitals with broken bones and bruises, simply because their parents or other family members get mad at them.
They totaled 14,000 last year only. Most of them told caregivers how they had been sexually abused and threatened to death if they did not keep silent.
Forensic doctor Sergio Rodas indicated that most victims had been strangled, drowned or shot to death.
But, why are Guatemalan children more vulnerable than children in other countries of the region? Leonel Dubón, who works at a shelter, came up with a straightforward answer: Because the State thinks that children under 13 years of age simply do not exist.
"Boys and girls are not being given priority," he regretted.
Local prosecution services indicated that there were 14,000 reports of physical abuse and 7.000 reports of acts of sexual violence against children in 2016 alone.
Attorney-General Thelma Aldana found it necessary to establish an office for acts of violence against children only.
In fact, Nery Rodenas, representative of the Archbishopric Human Rights Office (ODHAG), announced that the Guatemalan State invests merely 3.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on children.
"Neighboring countries like El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama allocate around six per cent," she noted.
"Local children are being negatively affected by an authoritarian, male-chauvinistic, discriminatory culture," she added.
"We at ODHAG have been monitoring violence against our children since 1998," she announced.
Survivors Foundation director Claudia Hernández indicated that 80 per cent of local households have seen their children, women and older people abused.
Dubón deeply regrets that the Attorney's Office for Children, the Secretariat for Social Well-being and the National Commission on Children have no funds to operate.
Axel Romero, minister of the Interior, is seeking to raise awareness about children in marginalized areas.
On the other hand, Marco A. Garavito, a representative of the Mental Health League, is fully aware of the fact that abused children tend to adopt violent behaviors when they reach puberty.
"There are around 19,000 teenagers currently involved in criminal gangs, willing to extort and even kill for money," he concluded.

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