MONTEGO BAY, St James (Jamaica Observer) — Twenty-three children are now in State care after being removed from the Bayith Yahweh compound in St James where there have been allegations of forced marriages and other abuses.
For many residents of the Paradise Gardens community, the intervention was long overdue.
The children, who are between one and 17 years old, were taken before the St James Family Court on Wednesday as the authorities moved to protect them. The police also reportedly detained a number of adults from the facility during the early-morning operation.
Commanding officer for the Area One Police Assistant Commissioner Clifford Chambers told the Jamaica Observer there were reports that a number of infractions — as outlined under Section 11 of the Child Care and Protection Act — are suspected to have taken place at the compound
“They are being forced into marriage once they get to the age of 16. And they are being humiliated; so the girls’ heads are shaved if there were any issues,” he said on Wednesday afternoon.
He added that there have also been reports that formal education has been withheld from school-aged children and youngsters were being housed in a communal living space that is not conducive to their well-being.
When the Observer visited Paradise Gardens on Wednesday morning, residents eagerly shared their concerns about the facility that has often attracted negative attention to the area. Most of them chose not to provide their names.