Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
Noted western Jamaica-based child and family therapist Dr Beverly Scott has described the steady increase in sex-related criminal cases before the St James Circuit Court as extremely worrying.
Scott's sentiments come against the background of the fact that sex-related offences top the list of cases down to be tried in the Michaelmas session of the St James Circuit Court, which opened Monday.
As many as 20 out of 34 cases on the trial list are matters of a sexual nature. Of those 20 cases, 13 were for rape, four for carnal abuse, two for incest, and one for a sexual act with a person under the age of 16.
True to Scott's observation, the number of sex-related cases shows an increase over last year's figure. In last year's Michaelmas sitting of the St James Circuit Court, of the 32 overall matters listed, there were 19 cases relating to sexual matters.
"The trend in St James is worrying. We need to really look at what is happening, what information is getting to these people, and where it is connected to the general social and moral degradation and breakdown in the society," said Scott.
In putting the matter into a national perspective, the family therapist said there was a heightened sensitivity toward sex among the nation's youth because of how the subject is approached in the media.
"It's all because of how sex is portrayed in social media, on TV, and in the electronic media," she said. "Children and youth have access to every kind of sexual preferences, innuendos and information on the World Wide Web. Having this information, people are going to experiment more, and you're going to find that they're going to violate other persons."
On a positive note, Scott pointed to the existence of the British High Commission-sponsored Child Protection Project, which was launched in June 2008 to address the problem of child molestation and is currently being taken islandwide.
"We started with an audit of the child-protection system in 2008," Scott outlined. "All the relevant agencies - the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Justice, and the Jamaican Bar Association - came together and developed a strategic plan because the issue of sexual problems was a serious matter."
She added: "The pilot is currently being rolled out throughout the island. Last week Thursday they were in Manchester, St Elizabeth and Clarendon. On Friday, the multi-agency model was being rolled out in Montego Bay for St James, Hanover and Westmoreland. So something is being done because they're aware of what's happening."