The issue of missing children in Jamaica has been a topic of concern for the society. Children go missing in Jamaica every day. And it is reported that the number of females missing is far more than the number of males. Also, the children who go missing are usually between the ages of 12 to 17 years.
There are various factors that have caused the crisis of missing children in Jamaica. Jamaica faces many challenges such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child abuse, child labour, unemployment, crime, drug trade and much more. All these reasons are responsible for the problem Jamaica is facing.
The key problem
The root of all the reasons is one- human trafficking, which has been a major problem in Jamaica. Jamaica has been prominently involved in trafficking women and children, who are exploited as labourers or forced into prostitution.
Many of the people who had become a prey of human trafficking knew their exploiters directly and had left home in search of opportunities. In other cases, children are kidnapped or lured by their captives. The future of these children often ends up in prostitution or forced labour.
In extreme situations, these children have to go through forced marriages, work in unhealthy conditions, beg on the streets, or the worst, their organs are sold.
Most of the girls trafficked are below 18 years of age. Their tender age and ignorance work in favour of their captives. These women are often lured by several job prospects which finally lead them into prostitution.
Tourist-prostitution is another reason that has led to the increasing number of missing children in Jamaica.
- One of the root reasons children go missing in Jamaica lies within the family. The issues of family conflict, mental illness, financial difficulties and peer pressure are of primary concern and need to be paid heed.
- Another major issue of concern in Jamaica is sexual abuse. Jamaica has reported many cases where children as young as 18 months old were abused by family members or known persons.
- Family breakdown and peer pressure are also influential in leading children in the wrong direction. It is difficult for single parents to deal with family issues and financial crisis. They often unknowingly neglect their children which lead them to enter into harmful situations.
The problem within Jamaica
Most Jamaican households face financial difficulties which lead to various problems within the household. Family conflicts often result in troublesome situations which may disturb people mentally and physically.
In such a situation, people especially children leave their homes out of rebellion. These children, unaware of the cruelty of the world outside, land up in unfavourable places where they are abused as labourers and prostitutes.
The disturbing situation of child abuse within the family has been prevalent in the Jamaican society and has depressing consequences. It not only affects the mental health of the children but also results in various diseases.
Children are often silenced and don’t know who to approach. They loose on their self-esteem and in many cases are led in the wrong direction. They run away from their homes to escape the society and often fall prey to the human traffickers who promise them a good life.
These children because of peer pressure and to fulfill their needs are influenced by the traffickers and kidnappers who lead them into dangerous circumstances.
Working together to bring back our children
The issue of missing children in Jamaica requires a high degree of attention. Other than giving counselling to families the society needs to be aware of the causes and consequences of children going missing.
Various measures need to be taken to deal with the problem of missing children in Jamaica. Some of these are:
- Counselling: Families of missing children should be provided guidance and support to deal with the crisis. They should be given moral support and information on how they should proceed further to locate their children.
- Increasing investigative resources: There should be a proper investigation in cases of missing children. Lawmakers should take this issue seriously and work towards it. Authorities must encourage people to report cases of abuse, missing children and other related crimes.
- Coordination between local and international agencies: The missing children can be trafficked to any part of the world. It is thus important for the local intelligence agencies to work in coordination with international agencies in tracking their children.
Also, single parents should be given appropriate counselling on how they should manage their resources and provide their children with a safe environment.
The government must support the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons as a step towards supporting the issue of missing children in Jamaica.
The problem of missing children in Jamaica is heart-breaking and must be uprooted. To eradicate this evil in the society Hear the Children’s Cry has been working for over a decade to provide assistance and counselling to the families of missing children and to the missing children who have returned.
It also started a Missing Children’s Support Programme in association with Jamaica Yellow Pages. The organization publishes photos and details of missing children on the site. Their aim is to provide support and encouragement to the children of Jamaica.