CARIBBEAN: Magistrate says do not tolerate pre-consent aged teens having sex

By Kieron Murdoch, Antigua Observer

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Senior Magistrate in British Overseas Territory of Anguilla, Ivenia Benjamin

Senior Magistrate in British Overseas Territory of Anguilla, Ivenia Benjamin

ANTIGUA OBSERVER – A magistrate from a neighbouring island has advised that although teenagers below and above the age of consent are prone to having sex with each other irrespective of the law, youth is no excuse for society to tolerate the practice.

In an interview with OBSERVER media over the weekend, Senior Magistrate in British Overseas Territory of Anguilla Ivenia Benjamin said “we have to be clear that there is no excuse” for what she called “sexual abuse”.

Speaking of her own experience in Anguilla she said, “We’ve had instances of young people perhaps a 15 year old and a 17 year old or a 19 year old and a 14 year old [having sex]. You don’t see them reporting these matters very often because sometimes the family may feel it’s just a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.”

The age of consent in Antigua & Barbuda is 16 years.

Benjamin added, “We have to teach young people from a very young age to value themselves and make choices and not to allow people to bully or have their way with [them].”

According to her it is equally important to “teach our young men to value our women” and males are often the older partners in an instance where two teens are having sex. She said, “When matters do come before the court the damage is done already.”

She admitted that it was “very common” for youth to be in sexual relationships but noted that society “is more tolerant of two young people getting involved in sexual relations even if it’s illegal or unlawful”.

“I’ve seen instance where such matters were brought before the court and half-way though the preliminary inquiry somebody says I’m not interested in giving evidence anymore…and we’ve seen instances where a parent says ‘I’m going to go all the way for my child’ and pushes the matter forward,” she added.

Her advice to the youth is “try to find other ways and means of stimulating yourself and your mind” such as “reading and getting involved in debating clubs; drama.”

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