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TRINIDAD EXPRESS – As of May 18 this year, the age of consent for sexual intercourse in Trinidad and Tobago is now 18.
The Children’s Act of 2012 was proclaimed on May 18 and, in this legislation, the definition of “child” is now “a person under the age of 18 years”.
Prior to May 18, a child was defined as persons under the age of 16 years and the Sexual Offences Act listed various offences for engaging in activities with persons under 16.
However, with the passing of the new legislation, certain sections of the Sexual Offences Act have been repealed, broadening the parameters under which persons can be charged.
During a recent interview with the Express, Christal Chapman, one of the senior legal associates of the Children’s Authority (The Authority) explained the basic provisions of the new Act and how it affects citizens of this country.
“The Children’s Act of 2012 (the Act), came into force on May 18 and when it did, it repealed the previous Children’s Act, as well as certain sections in the Sexual Offences Act. Now what this Act does is it deals with child victims and child offenders and looks at treatment of children and the human rights benefits which should be accorded to them,” said Chapman.
“Now the Act also seeks to put into effect certain obligations which are listed into convention regarding the rights of the child. That convention would have established international standards for treatment of children and Trinidad and Tobago would have ratified to those standards in the early 90s. So in layman’s terms, the Act is putting into effect what we agreed to in this convention,” she explained.
Chapman noted that one of the key changes was increasing the age of the definition of a child because this would have been one of the international standards that this country agreed to.
“Now, prior to this Act, take for instance persons who would be engaging in sexual intercourse, there would have been an offence committed if these persons were under 16. The Sexual Offences Act would have gone on to further specify offences for sex with a female under 14 and then sex with a female who is 14 but not yet 16, and so forth.
“All of that is done away with as of May 18. With the Act, the implications are also not just for giving consent for sex and so forth, but even persons to be charged for offences, and even reporting on children. Let us take for instance something like, previously if you were to commit a sexual assault on someone who is 17 years of age, it would not be considered an offence against a child. With the new Act, you open up the pool of persons who are considered children, and when offences are committed against a child. You have opened up that catchment area,” said Chapman.