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As Mexico Ramps Up Against Child Abuse, NGOs Urge Supporting Small-Scale Efforts

Lauren Villagran - The Christian Science Monitor
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February 22, 2013

What happens to child abuse victims in Mexico?

That was the question everyone asked after news broke that a young girl – initially believed to be 9 years old – gave birth in a Mexican hospital last month, raising international ire and dismay. Attention was suddenly trained on the failure of Mexican institutions to protect victims of abuse, especially children, highlighting how it can go undetected and unreported.

Adolescents and girls who are victims of sexual abuse in Mexico face a harrowing road to justice and recovery in a country where, although a federal law exists to protect them, in practice they are often left defenseless. Child rights advocates are pressing Mexico to reform arcane laws and a dysfunctional system of child protection. And at least one program is offering hope for a model of care.

The young mother known as Dafne was not nine but 12 or 13, as authorities later found (the girl's stepfather has been arrested in this case). But it was that misinformation that prompted her story to go viral and drove state authorities in Jalisco to investigate. Many say her case – like many others – may have otherwise gone ignored.

“It’s one of thousands [of similar] stories that unfortunately occur in our country,” says Araceli Borja, a child protection advocate with Mexico’s Save the Children.

Mexico knows it has work to do, and reform is on the legislative agenda. Meanwhile, civil organizations are pressuring the government to take action and are supporting small-scale efforts to improve the current system, including one in a Mexico City hospital that has had united agencies from health to family and legal services, and the police, to work together in defense of children.

"A key problem, which affects many countries, is a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities between different institutions in child protection,” says Alison Sutton, chief of child protection for the Mexico office of the United Nations children's agency, UNICEF. “If everybody is responsible, nobody is.

"It is important to know who must act, when and how. Otherwise children fall between the cracks within and between institutions.”

Read the whole story at The Christian Science Monitor

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