Keep sex laws - Coalition
Edmond Campbell, Staff Reporter
JUSTICE MINISTER Senator Mark Golding has shot down a proposal by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society and a number of church groups for the retention of criminal sanctions for consensual intercourse between adolescents.
In a submission to a joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and related laws, spokesperson for the coalition, Phillippa Davies said in the interest of greater protection for the nation's children, the provision should be retained in the Sexual Offences Act.
Section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act states that a person who has sexual intercourse with another person who is under the age of 16 years commits an offence.
According to Davies, studies have shown that engaging in sexual intercourse and drug use could place adolescents, especially girls, at risk for future depression. "The philosophy is that sex is not for minors and, therefore, the laws should remain," she added.
While insisting that the current law should remain in force, the coalition said it was concerned that "minors unnecessarily face the criminal court". The group has recommended that the draft National Diversion Policy be reviewed and enacted into law.
Under this policy, children who commit certain offences do not appear in court, but the authorities put measures in place to monitor and rehabilitate them.
Golding, who is also chairman of the joint select committee examining the Sexual Offences law, said teenagers have been hauled before the courts for having sex with other teenagers "and it is a particularly damaging thing to those children".
He said while strong messages should be sent to reduce promiscuity and sexual activity among teenagers, the solution of making it a very serious criminal offence, which ends up with a criminal record and being listed on the Sex Offenders Registry, is not an appropriate approach.
Meanwhile, the coalition has urged the committee not to change the laws relating to prostitution. "Sex is not a commodity and transacting in sex represents double exploitation of a person's legitimate need for income earning and another's desire for physical intimacy," Davies asserted.
"In light of the country's history where our forefathers' and mothers' bodies were forcibly exploited against their will for economic benefit and deviant sexual pleasure of others, it would be grossly shameful for the independent and free nation state of Jamaica to now sanction sexual exploitation as a legitimate pursuit for its citizens, under the guise of economic empowerment," she said.
The group urged the Government to provide more educational, skills training and employment opportunities for Jamaicans.