In a piece on News 5 Live on the 10th of August, Paul Lopez asked the question, what can we do as a society to better protect our Belizean boys? One of the issues raised was the curfew, and he turned to the National Commission for Families and Children (NCFC) for answers.
I was hoping, and expecting, that the NCFC would have strongly stood up for children’s rights — it’s one of the purposes for its existence. However, it seemed to support and even promote the tired and broken story that parents are to blame, and that children should be under a curfew (placed under house arrest without having done anything wrong).
Of course, parents have an incredibly important role to play in raising their children, but what happened to the adage “it takes a village to raise…”? Many parents work really hard to provide for their families, to teach them right from wrong, but let’s be real, systems do not support this…. We exclude children from school by making it so expensive, we don’t invest in school and after-school programs, and we have leaders who are morally corrupt and do not provide any role models to aspire to.
It seems really depressing that Belizean children need to rely on an external UN agency like UNICEF to stand up for their rights. In 2016, when a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. was implemented for children under 18 in an effort to curb crime, they wrote “Many measures are effective in child protection; curfew is not one of them” and explained why there is lots of evidence that proves curfews don’t reduce crime, and that they actually punish the wrong people, and have undesirable consequences, especially on poor and vulnerable families.
A curfew aimed at children simply stigmatizes, victimizes, and criminalizes the young people it allegedly is trying to protect. I also believe it’s illegal, as in 2005 a 15-year-old boy from the UK won a High Court challenge to the legality of its curfew laws targeting those under 16. He said at the time, “…they shouldn’t be allowed to treat me like a criminal just because I’m under 16.” This was 2005 — yet 16 years later, we are still mired in this subject.
I hope the NCFC will reconsider its position, and become a true supporter of children’s rights, and instead of promoting narratives that have long been found to be false, fights for equality and justice for all children under 18.