Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, announced some weeks ago about a curfew for children on the Southside of Belize City. As we have reported, the curfew has its fair share of supporters as well as detractors. One organization that is firmly opposed to the intuitive is UNICEF and earlier today we spoke with UNICEF’s representative for Belize, Ivan Yerovi. He said the issue is not a preventative measure but rather discrimination.
“We thoroughly disagree with this measure which is not a protective measure. The argument is if the final goal or if the final objective of this measure is to reach parents, our position is let’s not penalize children because they are not doing something wrong. Actually they are not doing something wrong and suddenly they are taken into police custody, I can also use the word detain although some may disagree and say that it’s not detaining a child, it’s keeping boys, because this measure is about boys and this measure is about south side Belize City which is discriminatory by the way this measure is about boys and South Side Belize City for doing nothing; so we definitely don’t believe it’s a protective measure. I like to provide an example if it is a protective measure what are we going to do and where are we going to keep all the girls that are being sexually abused in this country, are we also going to keep them in a jail or institution ? Are we going to have 2,000 or “X” number of girls that potentially will be sexually abused in one institution because we are protecting them ? I don’t think so that is why we are saying that this is not a protective measure.”
Yerovi says that he hopes, that the curfew is reviewed and that more studies are put into the initiative.
“We disagree with this measure and I hope the situation is reviewed and revisited. The Ministry of Human Development as you just mentioned they disagree with the methodology but they are there because they have to make sure that kids are being treated the way they are supposed to, that is what I have discussed with the CEO Judith Alpuche saying that they disagree with the methodology but they need to be there. Again we are open to discuss, we are open to participate in meetings, if we are invited definitely we are going to be around the table, thank you for inviting us if that is the case and we are going to say what we think based on the convention on the rights of a child.”
Since UNICEF does not agree with the curfew initiative by the police department, we asked what UNICEF is doing for the communities.
“Our agenda of working with the government and NGOs is very extensive. We have relationships with the Ministry of Human Development, with several NGOs working in the south and working in south side Belize City. Restore Belize is one of our main partners as well working with families on parenting, working with families and that is the only way to protect children in the household. UNICEF does not implement activities directly, we work with partners, the Ministry of Human Development, Restore Belize the Mayor’s Association, the 9 municipalities are precisely today participating in a workshop, those are our partners and we are trying to reach communities and reaching households with our partners own parenting. We have to insist that it takes time , it is a process but we have to start somewhere and that is precisely what we are contributing to.”
According to Assistant Commissioner Williams, a number of children have been detained since the curfew began.