The Children, Our Future? Sexual and Physical Abuse of Children in the Caribbean, specifically Suriname

Posted on | oktober 22, 2011 | No Comments

The online newspapers of Suriname consistently report about the sexual abuse of minors. Most of these stories depict harrowing tales of abuse, oftentimes committed by somebody within the immediate circle (family, relatives or neighbors). These stories make headlines because the perpetrators were arrested, the assumption therefore is that sexual abuse of minors has reached epic proportions, and that only a mere fraction of the cases are being brought to the attention of the public.

Striking is for example, the story of adolescent girls who were blamed because they did not scream or protested after being coaxed and/ or coerced to have sex. In one case a fourteen year old adolescent who was coaxed into a car and then gang raped in a motel on the other side of town, was send home by the police who did not want to file a report of the crime. The fact that the fourteen year old consented to be taken to a different location was reason for the police not to respond. A thirteen year old girl a victim of statutory rape, will see her perpetrator go free, because witnesses said that she ‘consented’ to having sex with a twenty-one year old male, because she went to his house. Shocking was the testimony of a ten year old girl who testified that “when they called (the boys) she obeyed”. But the most harrowing story is that of a seven year old girl who is waiting to be tested for the second time to rule out HIV infection, after being brutally raped by her father and uncle. Many teenagers (girls and boys) are being coaxed into having what is qualified as transactional sex.

Transactional sex is a form of prostitution whereby the trade-off consists of material goods, low- end mix drinks, phone cards; high end, brand-name goods (smart-phones, designer bags, shoes).

Striking is the fact that many of these victims come from poor social backgrounds, being raised in foster care or by a single mother. Neglect and poverty stand at the heart of this phenomenon: many people in the Caribbean are forced to live in cramped conditions with the extended families, situations where children oftentimes become the prey of adult perversion. Child abuse is not tied to certain social categories, child abuse is wide-spread, pervasive and persistent and transcending.

Studies carried out by the CARICOM revealed that sexual and physical abuse of children is socially accepted, and despite increasing awareness, prevalence remains high as the examples in the case of Suriname show.

In the case of Suriname, the new government blamed the high prevalence of abuse on TV and proposed to curb the media instead of taking actual action to stop abuse. Government overlooked the fact that at the heart of child abuse lay a distorted attitude toward children and their social status. Other social and political issues such as poverty and the mall-functioning of the police were left hanging in mid-air. By shifting the blame to the media, government in fact denied the seriousness of child abuse, sticking their heads in the sand and focusing on the morals of foreign TV-shows.

One of the issues of the Caribbean is the influence of religion the fact that sex and sexual behavior is ensconced in crypts of religiosity poses a serious problem, because it means that sexual abuse of children is in fact tabu. This conservative stance does not rhyme with the reality of the Caribbean society, a society economically and socially driven by matrifocality but politically influenced by ideas and images of masculinity and machismo.

But why have women consistently failed to take stance against child abuse? One of the problems is that the eradication of child abuse starts at the grass-roots, the care-taker, the mother. Mothers should be made aware to take action, to protect their children and break the cycle of abuse. But many women are afraid to take action because it oftentimes means implicating the breadwinner or financial contributor. Many women therefore have chosen to close their eyes, or to simply go on ignoring the signals of sexual abuse, failing to protect their child(ren) in order to keep a roof over their head. In some cases women have chosen men over their children, because they deemed having a man more important than protecting their children. In such a love-less environment, children easily fall prey to men seeking opportunity to have sex with minors.

Interesting is the notion that a child who had sex is no longer considered a child. In other words ones the child has had sex, it does not need protecting, it can take care of itself. In Suriname, many young girls who had so called‘consensual’ sex were also regarded as adults by the system and by their families. The thirteen year old rape victim was deemed fit for marriage by the justice system, because the perpetrator argued that he asked for her hand in marriage! Indeed cultural ideas on the definition of childhood also clash with what is generally qualified as child abuse.


Sexual abuse in the Caribbean is massive and underreported. Newspapers only depict a fraction of cases, oftentimes the cases that were brought to court. Many governments fail to address the unwanted byproducts of sexual abuse,( unwanted pregnancies, increasing risk of STD’s, HIV/AIDS, the increase of wanton sexual behavior of the adolescent population, and increasing percentages of single family households), and continue to stick their heads in the sand. But sexual abuse is not a proclivity of poverty, in fact sexual abuse in the higher social classes typically occurs in an even murkier and obscure environment, cloaked by social standing and mores, impeding elements that make the reporting of the abuse more difficult than in the lower classes. Policy makers and the justice system should take lesson from the cases that are reported and tried in court to develop policy and a protocol to help victims of abuse. But its Governments that remain responsible for the education of the population on the negative effects of sexual abuse of children, and the importance of protecting children against predators and pedophiles, no matter what social background they come from.



AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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