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Thursday 22 March 2018

50 pregnant girls get help

The Children’s Authority is currently assisting 50 girls between 13 to16 years who became pregnant by adult men.

.The girls are among 150 in the same age group that the authority has identified being in relationships with adult men says Children’s Authority Public Education and Communications Manager Cheryl Moses-Williams.

“The authority has been investigating the cases and providing support and other interventions to the girls in this age group,” she said.

“Some are in places of safety and children’s homes, while others are with their families,” Moses- Williams told Sunday Newsday on Friday.

“Families have been reporting because the age of consent was raised to 18 with the proclamation of the Children’s Act which criminalises sexual conduct between adult and children,” she noted.

As of May 18, 2015, the age of consent for sexual intercourse in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) was raised to 18 with the proclamation of the Children’s Act by President Anthony Carmona.

However, even though the age has been raised the local laws under the marriage acts of TT still provide for marriage from as low as 12 years under religious grounds. Marriage in TT is considered a union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.

Asked about the authority’s role in taking legal action against the adult men who would have committed statutory rape against the girls, Moses-Williams said that criminal investigations were conducted by the Child Protection Unit of the TT Police Service.

The authority, she said, was responsible for the initial investigation, assessment and coordination of care services for the girls.

Noting that the Children’s Authority was very concerned about the issue of teenage pregnancy, she said that it was a priority area in terms of prevention and advocacy strategy.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi told religious leaders at a meeting at his Portof- Spain office that between 2008 and 2015, a total of 35 girls under 12 years were made pregnant by adult men, and 2,654 girls between the ages of 13 to 16 were also made pregnant by adult men.

Birth certificates, he said, showed that some of the men who made the girls pregnant were between 16 to 40 years.

Al-Rawi also noted that 81 girls between ages 13 and 16 had pregnancies terminated from 2011 to 2015, and 683 girls between 17 and 19 years terminated pregnancies (764 in total) over the same period.

Meanwhile, former health minister Dr Fuad Khan, South West Regional Health Authority former chairman and gynaecologist Dr Lackram Bodoe, and public relations officer of the Network of NGOs Marcus Kissoon have said the issues of teenage pregnancy and teenage abortion need to remain high on the national agenda to protect girls after Al-Rawi’s disclosure that 764 teenage girls terminated pregnancies in three public health institutions between 2011 and 2015.

Khan said he was glad Al-Rawi made the figures public, while indicating that abortions may have occurred in private hospitals and in unsafe conditions.

“If in the last four years this has occurred,” Khan said, “Mr Al-Rawi has indicated that the time limit has not yet expired to go after the perpetrators of the under-aged pregnancies.

“That is statutory rape, and gynaecologists would have been obligated to report the cases to the police.” Kissoon said that “looking at the statistics of teen abortions and teenage pregnancies in the last years, and according to the Sexual Offences Act, crimes have been committed.” According to Al-Rawi a total of 2,258 sexual offences matters involving girls below 18 years of age, during 2000 and 2015, were before the courts.

This includes 44 cases of under 14-year-olds in 2000, a total of 81 involving the same age cohort in 2007, and 93 in 2014. The numbers were higher for the 14 to 16 age group.

Bodoe expressed concern at the high figure of teen abortions in the public health system and noted the need for clarification by either Al-Rawi or Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh as to “whether they were termination of viable pregnancies or whether they were done due to unhealthy pregnancies.” In his experience, Bodoe said that a pregnancy was terminated only when it was unhealthy or it was a miscarriage.

“The public hospitals,” he said, “will not terminate healthy pregnancies.

They will only do so if there is no heartbeat, or there is abnormality or things like that.” Boy, 9, victim of sex abuse Also yesterday, the Children’s Authority revealed it was investigating alleged reports of sexual abuse of a nine-year-old boy.

In a press release, the Authority said it “took steps to ensure the safety of the child and the matter is being treated with the sensitivity and confidentiality which it requires.”


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