Athaliah Reynolds, Staff Reporter
A Gleaner staff reporter, posing as a student, purchases pornographic videos from a streetside vendor in the busy Half-Way Tree square last Friday afternoon. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
Sociologists and children's rights advocates are calling for more aggressive legislation and stricter penalties to control the sale of pornographic and other sexually pervasive material to underage children in the wake of an increase in the number of incidents involving students performing sexual deeds in the island's schools.
Selling to students
The call is also in relation to an undercover investigation conducted by The Gleaner in the Corporate Area, which revealed that streetside vendors have been selling illegal copies of pornographic videos and other publications to students.
Senior Superintendent George Quallo, who is in charge of the St Andrew Central Police Division, told The Gleaner the sale of reproduced DVDs, whether containing pornographic images or not, is a criminal offence under the Copyright Act and perpetrators can be arrested and charged.
Children's Advocate Mary Clarke, however, said that, at present, there is no law that appropriately speaks to the sale of sexually explicit material to children.
The only such legislation would be the Obscene Publications (Suppression of) Act of 1927, which makes it illegal for individuals to trade, distribute or possess obscene materials, she said.
"But the penalties are ridiculously low and outdated," Clarke said.
A person convicted under this act could be fined a sum of $40 or three months in prison, with or without hard labour.
Audrey Budhi, director of policy planning at the Child Development Agency (CDA), said the Government and several agencies involved in the protection of children have been working to develop a child pornography act, which would make it illegal to produce, possess orcirculate pornographic material involving children.
She further said that, since the bill is now under review, it is hoped that cases involving the sale of obscene publications to children would also be included and stricter penalties would be applied for adults who made such material available to children.
Budhi said adults should be aware that it is nothing short of child abuse and indecent assault when adults provide children with such material.
Sylvester Anderson, president of the National Parent-Teachers' Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ), expressed shock at the fact that pornographic videos were being sold to students and said many of the vendors need to be made aware that what they are doing is not only morally wrong but also illegal.
"The fact of the matter is, many of these individuals are not concerned with whom they sell this material to," he said. "The aim is to make money so they couldn't care less whether it's a student or not."
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.