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News > Panama

Panama Uncovers Sexual Abuse of Minors in Public Shelters

  • The 'Vida Libre' Center is one of the shelters involved in the scandal, Las Garzas, Panama, Feb. 11, 2021.

    The 'Vida Libre' Center is one of the shelters involved in the scandal, Las Garzas, Panama, Feb. 11, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @prensacom

Published 12 February 2021
Opinion

The assaults occurred while the victims were under the supervision of the National Secretariat of Children, Adolescents, and Family.

A Parliamentary investigation revealed that dozens of Panamanian minors were sexually abused and physically and psychologically mistreated by their caretakers in at least 12 state-owned shelters over the last four years.

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"The state of neglect these children suffered is shocking. They weren't treated like humans," said lawmaker Walkiria Chandler, a member of the Parliament's commission that conducted the inquiry.

After six months of investigations, the Women, Children, Youth, and Family Commission proved that the children and adolescents were abused, especially those ones with disabilities.

Parliament began investigating the facts after a local outlet denounced in August 2020 irregularities suffered by a group of minors in the 'Vida Libre' shelter, in the Panama Province. 

"In that month, we also received dozens of emails with more accusations," Chandler added, explaining that the children were under the supervision of the National Secretariat of Children, Adolescents, and Family (SENNIAF).

The victims, who came from dysfunctional families, were left with physical and psychological after-effects. "Some children were denied food and medicine," she added.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) rejected the abuse to which the minors were subjected and urged Panama's government to draft a law guaranteeing children and adolescents' integral protection.

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