King Herod may not be around today, but children are increasingly at risk and perhaps even more so than others were almost 2,000 years ago when Herod ordered the deaths of all children living in Bethlehem and along the coast of Israel, who were two years and under. The difference is that there is no age limit and the risk is there whether from that of children being murdered, as in Herod's time; kidnapped, contracting HIV/AIDS, poor parenting, incest, rape, peer pressure, being killed by speeding drivers; neglect, malnutrition and the entire range of child abuse. Infants, pre-teens and teenagers are constantly under threat and many will not make it to 18, the legal age of majority.
Many youngsters in Trinidad and Tobago have become street children, after having been denied entry to the education system and a chance at upward mobility because the illegal immigrant status of their parents prevented their seeking to have them registered in government and government assisted primary schools. Any Christmas meal they may have had came from hustling in the Central Market and on the streets or rummaging in garbage bins and garbage dumps. This morning, some of them will stand and gawk at other more fortunate children going to Holy Innocents' Day services all decked out in their fancy "dan dans," clutching at expensive toys received on Christmas Day, and taken along to have them blessed by the priests of their respective Christian churches. How many will spare a thought for the deprived, luckless children?
Meanwhile, many more of the luckless are afflicted with HIV/AIDS, or at risk of contracting the virus and/or full blown disease from adult predators for whom they will prostitute their young bodies in exchange for money to put food on the table for themselves and/or their parents and siblings. Or the risk will be there to their health and lives only this time from ignorant, self-serving adults, themselves hit by HIV/AIDS, who cling to the long held mistaken belief that having sex with a pre-teen will cure their problem. Children, both pre-teen and teenage, are additionally at risk because the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign being conducted by the Ministry of Health with its emphasis on single partner relationships is being countered by a clear lack of positive parenting supported by peer pressure. This has led and continues to lead to multi-partner relationships and the pathetically absurd situation, particularly in low income areas, in which young girls compete with each other to see how many "boy friends" they can have and how early they can have babies, and boys vie for the greatest number of "conquests."
As brutal as Herod was he would perhaps have been shocked at the level of child abuse existing today, with girls as young as four and six being raped or otherwise sexually interfered with by fathers, stepfathers, "uncles" and older brothers. It is a year round Holy Innocents' Day syndrome and the change can only come through education and a genuine desire to be educated, along with a needed change of lifestyles. Otherwise another and perhaps yet another generation of children will be, in turn, placed increasingly at risk.
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