Jamaicans agree with Holness, State must deal with older men having sex with young girls
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' call for state intervention into the disquieting occurrences of older men cohabiting with young girls has resonated with Jamaicans from all walks of life.
"I believe that we are having a serious issue when it comes on to child abuse," said member of parliament for North West St Ann, Dr Dayton Campbell, signalling that the sentiment has slipped across party lines.
A medical doctor by profession, Campbell emphasised that Parliament must not only ensure that harsher laws are enacted, but that there is also certainty of punishment for the crime and indicated that he was heartened by the attitude of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on the matter.
Holness said the time had come for the State to intervene in circumstances where older men were living with underage girls and that the broader issue of "own account" children required more than increasing legal penalties for child abuse.
"This is not a political matter, but I would love to see both political parties using their machinery to identify these paedophiles in our communities," said Campbell. "I can't help but think that if we can tell the political affiliation of people in the communities, we must can know who is not a law-abiding citizen."
He stressed that parents need to take greater care of their children, be more aware of the company they keep, and stop allowing them to be precocious. "We need to go back to the ever-relevant adage that it takes a village to raise a child," he said.
Emphasising that she agreed with the sentiment of the opposition leader, Latoya Lucy Nugent, associate director, WE-Change education and training manager at The Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), said: "I would also like to add that intervention is needed as regards relationships between older women and children."
comprehensive response needed
Nugent said that she would, however, caution Holness that in intervening, there was need for a comprehensive response that would provide safety, protection, economic and other support for affected children who are sometimes stripped of choice for one reason or another.
"The community also has a role to play in this intervention, given in many instances, they are aware of, but silent on, the issue," said Nugent.
She stressed that children have a right to grow and develop at their own pace without coercion from adult men and women who have no regard for their psycho-social well being. "I also hope there is room in this intervention for same-sex abuse of children by older men and women," she said.
But for security consultant Robert Finzi-Smith, the only major intervention the State should, at this time, introduce is the requirement for DNA legislation that requires the doctors to harvest and make available DNA foetuses.
While noting that the law already exists, Finzi-Smith suggested that it is the enforcement that required beefing up. "Doctors who treat pregnant minors should be required to report to the police and child welfare agencies," he said.
Smith was emphatic that failure to do so should attract heavy penalties. "Proven unreported knowledge by adults or parents should be treated as accessories before, during and after the fact with the appropriate penalties," he said.