by Linda Straker
Social Development Minister calls for a more radical approach to dealing with matters of sexual abuse, and the various church groupings to speak up against this social scourge which can have long-term implications on children.
“We have to take a radical approach to deal with issues that confront our children, we have to go out more to the schools, more to the communities, and I want to call once more again to the church. I said before, as Christians, as the church, we cannot sit down and worship… we also in our church must speak against child abuse,” said Delma Thomas, when she hosted the weekly Tuesday morning post-cabinet news conference.
She announced that the Cabinet has started the process of appointing a broad-based committee that will guide the government’s policy as it relates to how to handle matters of child abuse in all its forms.
“What about a sex offenders’ registry? It is something that I have raised at the level of the OECS, and I know they are looking into it… Anything that can deter offenders from getting involved with children,” she said.
“We cannot sit idly by and accept our children to be abused. Everyone who has children should be concerned,” said Thomas, who explained that the committee will be reviewing all the laws relating to sexually related offences.
In 2010, the then Tillman Thomas administration amended the Criminal Code to increase the sentences for rape and other sexually-related offences. Rape moved from a maximum of 15 years to 33 years, but to date, there are no court records of any perpetrator receiving the maximum.
Data from the courts show that more than one-third of all cases listed for the assizes are sexually related offences. Recently, a police officer was among the many men found guilty of incest. He was scheduled to be sentenced on 7 December 2016.
The Committee is expected to have representation from the Ministry of Legal Affairs and child rights advocates and experts. Among the persons already mentioned to be on the Committee are Director of the Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic, Jacqueline Sealy–Burke and Human Rights Advocate, Lady Anande Trotman–Joseph. These two ladies are well known regionally and international for the work they have done with UNICEF and other UN agencies in the area of Human Rights.
“The Committee will be using the Ministry of Legal Affairs a lot, because we want them to come up with policy, legislation and programmes for reducing and eliminating instances of child abuse, sexually and otherwise,” Thomas said.