Al Rawi gave the statistics as he sought to make out a case for changes to the law to bring the legal age of marriage to 18, during a meeting he held with several religious leaders yesterday at the Office of the Attorney General, Cabildo Chambers, Port-of-Spain.
Leaders of the major religious organisations representing the Hindu, Muslim and Catholic faiths, however, were not present at this meeting. Nor were representatives of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO). Within the past weeks, the issue of child marriages has been on the front burner and has seen heated public debate. There is a call for the age to the increased to 18, which is the legal age of consent, while other sectors notably in the Hindu, Muslim and Orisha faiths, there is a call for laws governing the marriage of children, as young as 12, to remain.
The AG at the time was addressing the issue of child marriage and the current debate on legalising abortion on demand. The abortions were related to girls becoming pregnant outside of marriage, he said, and it was part of the debate right now in terms of the pros of being married and dealing with unwanted pregnancies.
Under the current laws abortion is illegal except in the case of a threat to the life or health of the pregnant woman. The penalty for a woman having an illegal abortion is four years in prison, and the same applies for a doctor or other person who performs the procedure. According to Ministry of Health Statistics provided, he noted that during 2011 and 2015, Port-of-Spain General Hospital accounted for a total of 405 teenage abortions, Mount Hope Women’s Hospital — 95, and San Fernando General Hospital - 264.
The highest numbers were in the 17 to 19 age group which accounted for 683 abortions. The teenage abortions, he said, does not take into consideration how many teenage pregnancies there would have been during the periods under review.
He noted that between 2008 to 2015 there were 15,240 pregnancies and live births for girls under 19 years. In the under 12 age group a total of 35 pregnancies were recorded, in the 13 to 16 age group the number was 2,654, and under the 17 to 19 age group, there were 12,551. Actual birth certificates, he said, showed that some of the girls aged 13 and 14 were mothers to children of fathers who were between the ages of 16 to 40 years. “In these statistics, he said, “We have recorded the actual live births of thousands of children in circumstances potentially equal to statutory rape. The fact that this has happened is rape.” In terms of sexual offences involving girls below 18 years of age during 2000 and 2015 a total of 2,258 matters were before the courts. This includes 44 cases involving under-14 yearolds in 2000, rising to 81 involving the same age cohort in 2007, and going even further to 93 in 2014.
The numbers were higher for the 14 to 16 age group. “We are seeing an upward trend of sexual offences against females under 16,” he said noting that “It is either better reporting or an increase in incidence.
They might have existed a long time, but were not reported.”
Teen Abortions between
2011 to 2015
PoS General Hospital
13 to 16 years - 36 abortions
17 to 19 years - 369 abortions
Total - 405
Mt Hope Women’s Hospital
13 to 16 - 15 abortions
17 to 19 - 80 abortions
Total - 95
San Fernando General Hospital
13 to 16 - 30
17 to 19 - 234
Total - 264