If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice and last Monday, it was clear the people of Trinidad responded to our leaders by not speaking.
The Mt Hope Women’s Hospital has recorded 183 teenagers giving births for 2013. The teenagers had all attended the hospital’s antenatal clinic and were questioned by the hospital social workers and doctors. Most of the births were reported to the St Joseph Police, a source at the hospital said, but the source could not confirm if anyone was charged for statutory rape. Yesterday, the police could not verify if these reports were made, stating that such information could only be provided by their seniors—who were unavailable. Of the 183 teenagers who gave birth over the 12-month period, 17 fell within the “14 years and under” bracket, while 75 were in the 15-to-16 age group, and 91 were 17 to 18 years old. Statistics obtained by the Sunday Guardian showed that for the months May, August and December, nine girls in the “14 years and under” age group gave birth. The only months that recorded no delivery for that age group were March and November.
In the 15-to-16 age group, 12 girls delivered babies in March alone, while in October, 11 girls became mothers. January saw 15 girls in the 17-to-18 age group delivering babies. On Tuesday, Dr Tim Gopeesingh said there were 2,500 teenage pregnancies every year. Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar on Friday said parents, doctors, nurses, teachers and employers could face a seven-year prison term and a fine of $15,000 if they had reason to believe a minor was sexually active and failed to report it to the police. Yesterday, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan described the figures as “alarming.” He said children learned what adults taught them: “If they see all these Carnival gyrations and sexuality on television, the system forces children to experiment.” He said long ago children jumped to calypso lyrics, but now they gyrated, encouraged by adults. Khan said one should not assume that the fathers of the 2,500 babies were older men.
Sampson-Browne: Some parents must shoulder blame
Head of the police Victims and Witness Support Unit Margaret Sampson-Browne said if a parent discovered their teenage daughter was pregnant, they should take the child immediately to a doctor and then the police. She said some parents must shoulder the blame for failing to seek the interest of their teenage daughter. “If a child goes through a full-term pregnancy and the mother does not know, it is sending a message, to me, that behaviours are occurring in a particular way that is not being observed by the parent.” However, Sampson-Browne said if a teenage girl was having sex with an adult who was culpable, “there is a policy and procedure under the Sexual Offences Act” to charge the individual. “If both children are having sexual intercourse, in law, there is a particular paragraph that deals with that. It is not to say the offence is not committed. It says something about culpability.” Sampson-Browne said the Sexual Offences Act had not been repealed or replaced and the Children’s Authority was working feverishly to get legislation in place to protect children. Sampson-Browne said anyone who prevented or deterred someone from making a report of a girl being sexually molested or abused could be fined $7,000 or sentenced to two years in prison.