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Child porn check - Government cracking down on sex-video wave in Jamaica
published: Monday | April 21, 2008

Petrina Francis, Staff Reporter

The Jamaican Government is now aggressively moving to arrest child pornography in the wake of a wave of electronic circulation of sexually explicit material.

The Child Pornography Act, which will make it illegal to produce, possess or circulate pornographic materials involving children, has now been drafted and sent to stakeholders for their input, according to Children's Advocate Mary Clarke.

Clarke, who has been pushing for legislation for some time, is urging the Ministry of Justice to move swiftly to introduce the legislation.

"We want the Ministry of Justice to push it as fast as possible," she said yesterday, adding that a public-education campaign was needed to raise national awareness.

Sex videos the rave

In recent years, there has been an increase in the circulation of pornographic recordings - whether by cellphone or email - showing persons, particularly schoolchildren, having sex.

Two months ago, yet another video surfaced depicting two students at a Jamaican high school engaged in a sexual act.

The amateur video, which appears to have been recorded with a cellphone by another student, had been circulating via the Internet for several weeks.

The Gleaner first reported the seriousness of the problem in 2006 after a video, featuring a group of boys sexually assaulting a young schoolgirl under the supervision of a church deacon, was brought to the newspaper's attention.

That matter is still before the court.

Minister concerned

Education Minister Andrew Holness has expressed concern about the growing trend of children being involved in pornography and transmitting pornography in schools.

"It is apparent that when the law was written in 1929, it recognised physical and emotional abuses, but it did not take into account that persons would videotape these experiences on cellphones and broadcast them," he said.

Already, Holness has met with the representatives of several children's agencies to discuss the issue.

"We looked at the legislation and out of that meeting, we can safely say we have developed some policy responses within the schools," he told the Jamaica Information Service late last week.

According to the education minister, it was clear from the discussions that all the stake-holders - teachers, principals, parents and school administrators - in the education sector have to be reminded of their duty to report all instances of endangerment to the welfare of children.

"They have a duty, and failure to carry out that duty could result in criminal prosecution," he pointed out.

The minister also said there was now active consideration to merge the services of the education ministry, the Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children's Advocate to bring about more cohesive intervention for children and to ensure greater efficiency in the use of resources.

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