Holness calls for state intervention in relationships between older men, children
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness says the time has come for the State to intervene in circumstances where older men are living with underage girls.
Holness says the broader issue of "own account" children requires more than increasing legal penalties for child abuse. He was addressing school leaders at the Robert Lightbourne High School and residents of the surrounding Trinityville community in St Thomas at a town hall meeting organised by the school under the JN Foundation's iLead programme.
Holness, who is chairman of the iLead Project Advisory Committee, says the situation appears to affect more rural communities than urban areas. He says communities must accept that relationships between older men and underage girls are wrong and should not be tolerated.
He suggested that tolerance for illicit relationships may be contributing to the high levels of teenage pregnancy in rural parishes such as St Thomas, which continues to be a problem although the national birthrate has been declining.
The JN Foundation iLead project chairman says St Thomas communities need to address the problem of men having initimate relationships with children, if the parish is to improve it's educational outcomes.
St Thomas, which is ranked as the poorest parish in the country, is also cited by the Ministry of Education as among the weakest performing.
The iLead programme was implemented by JN in partnership with the education ministry last year to assist with improving leadership in schools in St Thomas, St Mary and Portland and consequently, strengthen performance.