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Report: Child abuse on rise in Jamaica

  • Story Highlights
  • Child abuse reports in Jamaica have risen dramatically in past year, officials say
  • Justice Minister: Flogging, other forms of physical abuse are part of Jamaican culture
  • In 2008, 73 children were killed in 10-month span, according to police report
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By Katy Byron
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(CNN) -- The number of child abuse reports in Jamaica increased dramatically in 2008, the nation's Office of Children's Registry reported Saturday.

The office received 3,784 child abuse reports last year, up from only 425 complaints in 2007, a significant increase for a nation with a population of about 2.8 million.

OCR Registrar Carla Edie told the Jamaican government news service, JIS, that the people of Jamaica have become "increasingly mindful of their legal responsibility to report such incidents," and are increasingly concerned about child safety, given a recent trend of violence against minors in the country.

According to JIS, a police report issued late last year said that, between January 1, 2008 and November 1, 2008, 73 children were murdered and 383 cases of carnal abuse were reported.

Flogging and other forms of physical abuse are a part of Jamaican culture, Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne told JIS in an interview.

"There are many parents who even threaten to 'murder' their children, even some as young as two years old," Lightbourne said.

Regarding official child abuse reports, Edie also said that the large increase can be attributed to growing awareness that the Office of Children's Registry is the department responsible for tracking and acting on such information, and not other government and police agencies that handled those reports in the past.

In addition, "if someone has information of suspected child abuse and fails to make a report to the Registry, that person can be charged a maximum fee of $500,000 or-and six months imprisonment," Edie told JIS.

In response to increased demand, the OCR will increase its operating hours and staff.

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