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LETTER OF THE DAY - Sex offenders registry needed

Published:Wednesday | April 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, SIR:

I, TOO, have been horrified by the most recent media reports regarding the sexual abuse of our children. I am in favour of a registry of Jamaican sex offenders because it is obvious from the large number of reported sex abuse cases that we have a large cross section of paedophiles at large in our Jamaican society. These are adults who, as distasteful as it is to confront, are simply sexually attracted to children, and will repeat their sexual abuse of children, given a chance.

Communities have a right to know if paedophiles reside in their area so that they can identify these offenders and protect their children from them. Despite numerous reports of bus conductors sexually abusing schoolgirl passengers, I have yet to hear of a conviction or of such an offender being barred from close contact with underage girls.

As a society, we need to be less ambivalent about the sexual abuse of girls: large numbers of our men regard pubescent schoolgirls as suitable sexual partners, and engage in abusing them, on a 'consensual' basis. Society sees these pubescent girls as 'bad girls' rather than as victims of the predators who do not see themselves as the paedophiles that they really are. Somehow, in our Jamaican culture, if a man sexually abuses an underage girl whose body has begun to develop, it is not really seen as paedophilia because, somehow, it is thought to be 'natural' that a man should be attracted to the developing body of a pubescent girl. We need to send a clear message that sex with all underage girls is repugnant and criminal: we cannot regard the sexual abuse of pubescent girls with a wink and a nod and at the same time be horrified when the paedophile gravitates towards eight-year-olds.

The age of consent is enshrined to protect children because sexual activity brings risks and dangers. Society deems that age to be 16. All men who have sex with underage girls must be punished severely, not just those who abuse pre-pubescent girls. In some American states, conviction of sex with a child brings a life sentence - this sentence reflects the lifelong damage done to a child who is sexually abused by an adult. Would we in Jamaica consider a life sentence to be too harsh for a man that has sex with an eight-year-old girl?

Concerned female