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Domestic abuse action plan for Caribbean Netherlands


THE HAGUE–Dutch State Secretary of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Martin van Rijn announced on Wednesday that he will draft an action plan to address domestic violence in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Domestic violence is a serious problem in the Dutch Caribbean. The problem was confirmed and described in the recently published reports of the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF Nederland on children’s rights on all six Dutch Caribbean islands. It is also a problem that is mostly swept under the carpet in a culture of silence.

“Many children are reared in a violent environment where yelling and beating are the order of the day. Parents who treat their children this way are often repeating what they learned from their parents. Some parents now realise that violence should not be part of childrearing, but for many the alternatives are unclear,” the UNICEF report stated about domestic violence.

Alarmed by these and other UNICEF findings, the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament called on Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk and State Secretary Van Rijn for a debate on children’s rights in the Dutch Caribbean. The debate took place on Wednesday, at the request of the Christian Democratic Party CDA and the Democratic Party D66.

The three opposition parties are of the opinion that children’s rights is a matter of the entire Kingdom and, therefore, it should be placed high on the list of priorities of the Kingdom Government. Minister Plasterk agreed that children were a prime concern in the Kingdom and that the countries had a joint responsibility to ensure children’s rights. As such the subject has been placed on the agenda of next year’s Kingdom Conference.

However, Plasterk pointed out that children’s rights are an autonomous affair of the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and that The Netherlands is only responsible for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as these islands are Dutch public entities.

The report’s findings on domestic violence, abuse, neglect, incest and physical beatings led State Secretary Van Rijn to the decision to further look into this matter. He said an integral approach was important in the case of problem families.

Together with the Ministries of Safety and Justice V and J, and Education, Culture and Science OCW, and the local governments, his ministry will carry out research followed by a plan of approach which will be sent to the Second Chamber in 2014. The establishing of a safe house for victims of domestic violence will be included in this plan.

Van Rijn also announced a broader research into the health of people on the three islands which will include the generally unhealthy life style and obesity of children. Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA remarked that healthy, fresh food was expensive on the islands.

Plasterk acknowledged that it is difficult to solve domestic violence issues or other issues that seem to be part of the (Dutch) Caribbean culture such as the absence of fathers in many families. “Many of these problems take place behind the front door and it is hard to know exactly what goes on,” he said. He said it was important to keep working on these issues and to get them out in the open. Role models can also contribute, he added.

Van Rijn said that that the Dutch Government would continue to work on further improvement of children’s rights in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. He said it was also important to adapt the policy where needed. He agreed that more statistics were needed on the situation of children as these were currently lacking.

Members of the Second Chamber Brigitte van der Burg of the liberal democratic VVD party, Wassila Hachchi (D66) and Van Laar (PvdA) had specifically asked for more data and actual figures, which they considered important to keep a close tab on issues affecting children. Minister Plasterk promised to ask the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) to do this.

All parties present at Wednesday’s meeting expressed their concerns about the findings of the UNICEF reports. Hachchi called the reports “a wake-up call” and said that education was the key to solving many of the problems that children faced on the islands. Poverty is also an important reason for the violation of children’s rights, she noted.

Madeleine van Toorenburg (CDA) said the UNICEF reports contained a “horrible measure.” She called on the Kingdom Government to give children’s rights top priority, because, she added, “All other things are unimportant compared to this.”

She said that poverty was a “blanket” that covered the problems. She praised the Dutch Government for its efforts to improve children’s rights in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and urged government to make extra means available and to closely monitor the situation.

Gert-Jan Segers of the Christian Union (CU) remarked that poverty could be tackled by increasing the level of facilities and social allowances on the islands.

Plasterk said that State Secretary of Social Affairs Jetta Klijnsma would address the level of facilities during her visit to the Caribbean Netherlands next month. The minister said that the Dutch Government had made significantly more money available and that there had been much overall improvement.

Van der Burg (VVD) said it was not all doom and gloom when it came to children’s rights. “Children are generally happy on the islands that should also be said.” She made a case to dispatch Dutch civil servants for a longer period that would have to share their expertise with local counterparts.

Bron: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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