Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Arnaldo Brown | No child is illegitimate

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Krystal Tomlinson and Beenie Man.

The recent public announcement by Flair Magazine dated July 9, 2018 of the expectancy of Krystal Tomlinson and her boo, Moses 'Beenie Man" Davis, has offended the sensibilities of at least one member of society who was constrained to chastise The Gleaner for giving prominence to the state of the womb of Ms Tomlinson and her apparent lack of matrimonial bliss.

On July 10, 2018, like Flash Gordon, in a terse 151-word tirade to the editor, Lipton Matthews, remonstrated the featured couples' pregnancy in the following terms: "There was no reason for this illustrious publication to venerate Ms Tomlinson's illegitimate pregnancy and her courtship with an older man who has several illegitimate children of his own."


Impossibility by law


Mr Matthews seems oblivious to the fact that there are no 'illegitimate' children in Jamaica. No bastard nuh deh again! The Status of Children Act, which came into force on November 1, 1976, as the 36th piece of legislation introduced into the Houses of Parliament in the same year and subsequently amended in 1993 and 2005 laid to rest the dehumanising label and circumstance of 'illegitimacy'.

Some detractors of the this piece of legislation and social engineering would be quick to lay blame at its altar as licence for profligacy and a breakdown in family values. They are sorely mistaken.

The Status of Children Act 36 of 1976 defines a child to include "a child born out of wedlock". The very offence that infuriates Mr Matthews and violates his values and which The Gleaner, through Flair Magazine, is foisting upon him as this Gleaner is the only hallowed source from which he gets the news and it should be the vanguard of what constitutes decency.

Section (3) of the Status of Children Act states:

"3.-(1) Subject to subsection (4) and to the provisions of sections 4 and 7, for all the purposes of the law of Jamaica, the relationship between every person and his father and mother shall be determined, irrespective of whether the father and mother are, or have been married to each other, and all other relationships shall be determined accordingly.

(2) The rule of construction, whereby in any instrument words of relationship signify only legitimate relationship in the absence of a contrary expression of intention is hereby abolished.

(3) Subject to subsection (4), this section shall apply in respect of every person, whether born before or after the 1st day of November, 1976, and whether born in Jamaica or not, and whether or not his father or mother has ever been domiciled in Jamaica ... ."

In a nutshell, the section is saying that every child is equal. More significant, the legislation does not in this section use the word 'child', but instead uses the term 'every person', thereby codifying the 'personhood' of the child and, by extension, that person's inherent and innate right to dignity, irrespective of the 'circumstance' of their birth or the nature of the 'relationship' in which they are born. This clause goes to the heart of human dignity.

The legislation calls for responsible parenting and responsible parents. It freed men and women from having to hide their progeny. It freed children from being disenfranchised of inheritance, as well as their identity, as many could not carry their biological father's name. The legislation freed many children from self-hatred and low self-esteem as the ignominy of being labelled a bastard and being treated as such was abolished.


Bias ingrained


But Mr Matthew's intervention is a sign that ingrained biases are hard to erase.

It doesn't matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

Ms Tomlinson is 29 years old, twice an adult. She delayed pregnancy until she was emotionally, socially, physically and financially ready to bring another human being into the world. The child has, and will know, his or her father. By all indications, the child will have a stable, loving and nurturing environment, as well as other legitimate siblings with whom to associate.

Mr Matthews, peace be still.

• Arnaldo Brown is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and arnaldobrownandcompany@gmail.com.