Students blame church, media for social decadence
Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
CITING THE failure of the Government, media, parenting, the Church, culture - and society in general - for the growing rate of teenage sex, the students of Ardenne High School are of the view that whether the age of consent in Jamaica is raised is irrelevant.
During yesterday's Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum at the school's St Andrew campus, upper-school students debated the issue of whether the age of consent should be lowered, kept where it is, or increased, and what can be done to make Jamaican students grow into more responsible adults.
As far as the teenagers were concerned, the growth of teenage pregnancy, promiscuity among teens, and overall decadence were a direct result of the state failing to act.
They also said the Church has been guilty of turning a blind eye to many of these ills, and media have been failing to highlight the positives, and that individuals neglect to accept personal responsibility for their actions.
Under Jamaican laws, a person is legally recognised as an adult when they turn 18 years, which also allows them voting rights. However, at age 16, they are considered to be legally competent to consent to sexual acts.
According to recent statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, for the period January to November this year, there were 697 reported cases of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 years.
The statistics also revealed that the majority of the cases involved peer on peer, in that more and more boys and girls of the same age were having sexual intercourse with each other.
The overall consensus of the students at the forum was that the issue was not about the age of consent, but rather family values, education, and moral, social and personal responsibility.
CHANGE OF CULTURE NEEDED
They felt there was a great need for resocialisation and reculturalisation in the society if the problem is to be adequately addressed.
"The age of consent ought to remain the same, but responsibility must be promoted through reformation of social culture and through personal or direct enforcement," argued 18-year-old Jomo Dixon.
"Presently, we are not enforcing the law we have, so if we are to increase the age of consent, where is the guarantee that the law will be enforced then?"
Dixon also raised the moral aspect, stating that Jamaica was facing a situation with its culture that was not pleasing.
"Our culture is deteriorating, and if it is that we cannot fix the problem of the culture, how then can we implement legislations to ensure that each citizen behaves responsibly?" he added.
"Every day, we are being bombarded by the ghetto mentality, the dancehall culture, and 'gallis' mentality. In order to have an effective age of consent, we need to first tackle the cultural problem of Jamaica."
POSITIVE ROLE MODELS
Seventeen-year-old Makeda Morrison is of the view that serious social engineering was needed, with the introduction of more aggressive public education and more positive role models coming forward.
"By educating the masses, you will demystify the mysterious, hence making it (sexual issues) common and uninteresting," she stated.
"By getting students more attached and involved in educational programmes and targeted activities, they will have less time to be promiscuous. Education changes mindset and mindset changes culture."
Novia March, 17, called on the Church to play a greater role and to effectively put into action the Christian values they constantly expound.
Deputy head boy Jefferson Daley reasoned that the early values his parents taught him helped to make him the success he is today.
"I choose not to have sex because of what It at home, how my parents grew me, the values they taught me, and me wanting to focus on what was important in achieving what I want," he stated.
"Personal responsibility is very important in knowing what we, as individuals, want out of life and going after it."
Should the age of consent in Jamaica be lowered, kept where it is, or increased and what can be done to make Jamaican students grow into more responsible adults? Ardenne High School upper-school students gave their views at the Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum yesterday.
KEVONNIE WHYTE, 18
I am of the view that the age of consent should remain at 16 because the focus should not be on the age of consent, but on responsibility, culture and the society.
NASHON MITCHELL, 18
I strongly believe that the age of consent should be increased to 18 to keep in line with the legalistic aspect of society.
SAMUEL BAILEY, 16
I believe the age of consent should be raised to 18 because it would give students more time to grow, which would be good for our development.
NOVIA MARCH, 17
I think the age of consent should remain at 16 because raising it would not solve the primary issue of responsibility.
ROMANE DUNCAN, 18
I believe the age of consent should be raised to 18, which would increase overall responsibility.
MAKEDA MORRISON, 17
I believe the age of consent should remain because the age of consent is not the issue, but responsibility and cultural issues affecting our students.
DAVA-GAYE NELSON, 18
I believe the age of consent should be raised to 18 to allow for a better development of the human aspect, which would lead to a more developed country.
JOMO DIXON, 17
I believe the age of consent must remain the same because at the end of the day, culture is the problem that we are facing in our society.