Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE Dia-hann Gordon-Harrison has said there is an anomaly in the law as it relates to the age of consent and age of access to health services in Jamaica.
This, she said, poses a serious problem to adolescents and medical practitioners.
"Even though the age of consent is 16, the age of maturity for being able to access health services, which includes HIV testing and access to contraception, is 18. This poses a problem, but we have not sorted out the amendments yet. It is something that is always the topic of discussions and, whenever it comes up, it does create some amount of confusion," Gordon-Harrison told The Gleaner.
Meanwhile, Dr Lisa Franklin-Banton, president of the Paediatric Association of Jamaica, addressed the predicament that medical practitioners face when approached by adolescents under the age of 18.
"It is a problematic situation, as they are coming for birth control pills and, according to the law, doctors are not supposed to dispense it. What happens if the doctors don't give them? They will still go and have sex regardless, leading to more pregnant teenagers," Franklin-Banton told The Gleaner.
Notwithstanding this, head of the Centre for the Investigations of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Superintendent Gladys Brown, said strict measures will be taken against medical practitioners if they are found guilty of administering such health services.
"These doctors can be imprisoned once CISOCA starts investigation and realises that you have assisted with an abortion. The law speaks to the fact that a doctor can assist a child with an abortion if the child's health or life is in danger. They know this and, outside of that, a doctor can't take it on their shoulders to terminate a pregnancy," Brown said.
She also noted that young people need to be educated about sex and the consequences associated with it, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, from an early age.
"A lot of these children are intelligent and mature in thinking, but they are not necessarily mature in making decisions. I believe that we should stop the nonsense of letting people live out their childhood, and don't disrupt their minds with talk about sex until they are 12. By then, it may be too late. We can no longer wait, as they are being preyed upon from as early as the age of five," she added.