By Andre Bagoo
February 05, 2014 – newsday.co.tt
THERE ARE an estimated 2,500 teenage pregnancies per year, including several cases at the primary school level, Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh said yesterday as he called for the enforcement of laws against statutory rape in order to address what he said was a “huge”, “frightening” and worsening problem.
The minister linked the problem to social conditions, saying half the population now live in single-parent homes.
“It is a frightening situation and the police are now moving to act on statutory rape and I believe this should be looked at very closely because this teenage pregnancy situation cannot continue,” Gopeesingh said. “I have 27 years experience in this field. I found the problem was growing year by year.”
The Minister was responding to a question filed in the Senate by Independent Senator Dr Victor Wheeler – an obstetrician gynaecologist with a practice in Tobago. Wheeler had asked for an account of the number of cases of child pregnancies documented in schools.
Of police action in cases of statutory rape, Gopeesingh later told reporters, “I believe if we continue to do that, we will see a drop in the teenage pregnancy rate. There is a strong co-relation with police action and deterrence. I feel if people are apprehensive of enforcement of the Children’s Act, there might be some degree of fear.”
In the Senate, Gopeesingh said by the time they reach the age of 19, an estimated 1,000 girls per year would have already had four pregnancies.
The Minister also said between 2008 to 2012 there were four reported cases of pregnancy at primary school, or in the under 13 age bracket. Of these four, three completed their primary school education and went on to secondary school. One did not.
For the same period, there were 153 reported cases at secondary schools, or in the 13 to 18 age bracket. Of these, 54 completed their education.
The cases of secondary school teenage pregnancies were largely in the Port-of-Spain division (52). Cases were also reported at Caroni (44); Victoria (15); St George East (26); St Patrick (3) among others. Gopeesingh noted the figures related to reported cases and did not cover drop-outs who may not have specified pregnancy as the cause of withdrawal from school. “There is under-reporting and a high drop-out rate,” he said. “These figures relate to what has been reported to the Student Support Services Division at the Ministry of Education but we are certain there is a quite heavy drop-out rate from the student population which is not reported and which has been difficult to trace.”
Attorney Douglas Mendes SC, a board member of the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago, yesterday noted the importance of enforcement of laws relating to statutory rape.
“There is no point having laws on the books if the law is not being enforced and seen to be enforced,” the attorney said. “Statutory rape is clearly an offence and as an offence it is easier to prove than rape of an adult. In the case of the rape of an adult you have to prove a lack of consent but in the case of rape of a minor you simply have to prove there has been intercourse. Lack of consent is assumed. Therefore this is certainly an offence the police should have at the top of their list.” Mendes noted there is a wide range of offences – beyond the offence of statutory rape – which teenage pregnancies may involve, particularly the cases involving family members.
On the need for balancing the interest of the child with the rigors of a long trial process, Mendes noted there are measures which are already put in place to protect the interests of the child such as in camera hearings and a ban on publication of certain details.
In relation to a recent reported case of a 12-year-old being pregnant, Gopeesingh said he was not in a position to comment. However, he disclosed he had requested a report in relation to that incident.
Gopeesingh said the State had reformed the school curriculum to include “moral values or ethics”; “citizenry development” and reformed social studies and sex education. He also said more than 200 guidance counsellors had been despatched to schools.
The Minister said teenagers who become pregnant receive “a lot of counselling”.
“That is the approach that we use: we do not deprive anybody of an education just because they got pregnant,” he said.
The Minister linked the root cause of the problem to social conditions and said half of the population now lived in single-parent homes. “It’s an issue of socialisation and what these young teenagers have been looking for. They say they are looking for some degree of love because they feel that they are not loved and are looking for something to hold on to.”
Gopeesingh also complained of a lack of social workers when it comes to the policing of the problem.
Recalling his own time as a gynaecologist at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital between 1981 to 2007, he said, “in every clinic that we started ten or eleven of the cases were teenage pregnancies. There is a scarcity of medical social workers in the country.”
The Minister said steps will be taken to ensure greater “surveillance” of the student population.
4 thoughts on “ARREST THOSE MEN”
As the partner of a trini living abroad I would like to add, that the estblishment of a sex offenders register for these pedophiles would act as a greater deterent than even the thought of prosecution, as once on the register they are there for LIFE and the stigma would follow them around and that could affect their career prospects and their reputation in society, surley even in Trinidad pedophiles are not just frowned up on but become social outcasts, and the register should be published every 6 months with names and addresses. They should be made to enter a police station monthly to sign on to the register with failure meaning a lengthy prison term.
gopeesing you are heading in the right direction on this ..please dont drop the ball !! a lot of areas must come togather to be sucessful, it is not ‘impossible”.my advise is to set up a team to work directly with you on this.Each person will have oversight on specific areas ,they will report directly to you. Social worker/ school counciller/health facilities /doctors, free 800 number for parents to call if they are having problems with their teens or if they themselves are haveing problems as single parents, if they just dont know how to commucicate with their teens and PLEASE ..PLEASE ..let these be working numbers ..let these be numbers with people on the next end who are trained an know what to say and how to say it …remember the goal is to help these people not to intimidate them so that they will end the call or never call back.So i guess the first thing to do is to determine the areas you want to function in and get TRAINED /SYMPATHIC people on your team.if this is done right you may not only be saving this generation but the NEXT ..just the taught of that have me smiling ..think about it …
What happens if the male is also a minor?
Pregnant children in danger….. Doctor warns of teens going to backyard abortionists
By Anna Ramdass
February 10, 2014
The legal threat of being jailed for not reporting statutory rape will place pregnant children at high risk and may even result in their death, according to prominent obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Sherene Kalloo.
She said doctors’ lives can also be placed in jeopardy if threatened by criminal elements to deliver a pregnant teen baby.
Full Article : trinidadexpress.com
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