The trend is nothing short of appalling. The past week began with the revelation by the Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh, that each year there are over 2,500 teenage pregnancies in this country. Most of these pregnancies are for fathers between the ages of 25 and 40 years. Even more outrageous is the result of a study conducted by the UWI faculty of Medical Sciences which revealed that by the age of 19 more than 1,000 girls had four children.
Before one could even attempt to make sense of this phenomenon another headline appears—a primary school principal has been arrested and now facing multiple sex charges for offences against minors. As a country we have moved from the sublime to absolutely ridiculous. The morals, values, care, concern and ethics which for so long have characterised our people have disappeared and this is a heart-wrenching reality.
The statistics triggered the Prime Minister to remind the public that “Seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000 is the punishment parents, doctors, nurses, teachers and employers face if they have reason to believe a minor is sexually active and fail to report it to the police.” Whether it is fear of going to prison or the sudden need to check records, the citizenry is now being bombarded by a multiplicity of statistics pertaining to teenage pregnancy. For instance, Mt Hope Women’s Hospital has stated that for 2013, 183 babies had been delivered to teenagers and 92 of those cases would be legally recognised as statutory rape.
How many of the rapists did our police manage to seek out and arrest? How many parents actually reported and were questioned for their negligence and lack of proper monitoring leading to their daughters being engaged in sexual activity under the statutory age?
Most importantly, what is being done to curb this trend? The Minister of Education has highlighted that counselling is provided for the young women who become pregnant. Now this cannot be our approach to evidence that explicitly shows that the youngest girls in our society are not safe at home, at school, at church or even in youth groups.
We need to address the issue before pregnancy occurs. How well does our school curriculum facilitate teaching youths about sex, rape and other offences against them? To what extent is instilling good morals and values part of the school curriculum? Are there sufficient psychologists and counsellors in our schools? Are parents sufficiently educated on statutory rape? Is there need to host public education workshops?
These are the questions that need to be answered as the first step to resolving this issue.
The onus is on us all to do our part in shielding the most vulnerable in our society against these heinous crimes by men who have unapologetically abused the trust and power that have been vested in them. By allowing these crimes to continue we all would have contributed to raising a generation of broken individuals in a country where the moral fabric is daily being ripped to pieces.