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'Plain discrimination!' - Boys 14-17 need protection from assault, too, says JFJ

Published:Thursday | June 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Gordon Harrison

Jamaica has a law that protects children from aggravated assault. Girls get that protection for their entire childhood. For boys, however, the protection stops at age 13, and human-rights lobby Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) says that it is just plain discrimination and should be changed.

It is one of the many recommendations that the rights group has put before the joint select committee of Parliament that is reviewing the Sexual Offences Act and related laws to, among other things, strengthen Jamaica's legislative regime to protect vulnerable groups.

The Child Care and Protection Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years.

But boys 14 years and older are excluded under Section 40 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which introduces special protection for women and children from aggravated assault - an attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another or to purposely cause serious bodily injury.







Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison told The Gleaner yesterday that prosecutors rarely use the provision in handling cases but that she would support the amendment that the rights group is pushing for.

"This gendered age distinction in this provision should be removed. It serves no legitimate purpose, does not provide equal protection to all children as it was intended to do, and does not serve the best interest of the child," JFJ argued in its submission presented to the committee chaired by Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.

JFJ said that regardless of gender, children assaulted by adults should bring an aggravated charge "due to the clear asymmetries in power between victim and perpetrator".

"A 14-year-old boy suffers no less than a 17-year-old girl child. A child's gender does not diminish the severity of their abuse. The law ought to never endorse that position," the rights group said.

Additionally, the group wants the law, in referring to the offender, to use "any adult" rather than the "any person" currently used to avoid any contemplation of a child being accused of aggravated assault.

JFJ has also recommended that the age limit to trigger child abandonment provisions in law be increased from two years old to seven years old.

"We recognise the intention may be to protect newborns and infants, [but] we firmly believe that if abandoned, a seven-year-old quite possibly faces near certain risk of substantial injury or death."