News about an 11-year-old girl from Micoud being five months pregnant has raised many eyebrows and started a nationwide debate about who is at fault.
But former Health, Human Services, Family Affairs and Gender Relations Minister, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, believes that the root of the problem lies in sexual abuse of minors on Saint Lucia and calls for a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards the issue.
Flood-Beaubrun said a very serious crime has been committed and the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the perpetrator, and the child should receive the care she needs.
The former minister noted this case highlights more glaringly that there have been too many cases of rape and sexual abuse of children and adults being committed here.
She said sexual abuse of minors is prevalent, and it is important to deal with this case, but asserted that it is also important to deal with the cases that are not brought to light.
“There has to be zero tolerance and it must mean zero tolerance. The age of consent is 16, and there are so many cases that we know of where children: 14, 15, 13 are impregnated and it is not dealt with as a criminal offense and these cases never see the light of day. This needs to be addressed as well. It has to be made clear that that is the standard that society has set and we will accept nothing less.”
While some persons have already criticized the mother, blaming her for not recognizing that her child was pregnant, the former Human Services Minister said while parents would like to be around their children all the time, it is sometimes physically impossible.
“I don’t think we could necessarily blame a parent, but as adults, it is our responsibility to look after children whether or not it is your child. Every adult, needs to recognize that children are vulnerable and have to be protected. The state have to ensure also that if children are not protected, it has its wheels well-oiled, so it can step in and help children and the whole society must know, so people will understand that there are consequences if children are violated and these consequences are harsh.”
Highly sexualised society
But while Flood-Beaubrun stressed the need for society to play its part by ensuring that children are protected, she noted Saint Lucia is a “highly sexualized” society.
“Let’s be honest about it, sex is everywhere. Children are sexualized in the way they dress. We have to talk about it. And parents must take responsibility for that,” she stated.
Some parents, she said, dress their girl children in an inappropriate manner. And mothers in particular must instill the values of “modesty in their children, both boys and girls.”
“I am not suggesting that anyone has a right to violate anyone, because of how that person is dressed. Certainly a child should never be looked at in a seductive manner by anybody. Anyone who does that is sick and not only need to be put behind bars, but need psychological help.”
However, Flood-Beaubrun is of the view that this is a factor that leads to some of the sexual abuse, rape and sexual violence that continues to plague society.
She said, “Sex is the order of the day, where it is sold, promoted, used in advertisement. And women are seen as sex objects and that needs to change. Unless we as a society recognize that it is a problem, and we take ownership of it, we will have women being treated as sex objects.”
Flood-Beaubrun recognized that the Human Services Department has been understaffed and has been operating with limited resources for a number of years, but stressed that government must not sit by idly and allow more of these cases to fester, before something is done to address the shortfalls within that Department.
“Human Services needs to be staffed and resourced, so they can deal with these cases not only as a crisis management approach, but we can identify children who are at risk and interventions can be made before the situation reaches a crisis….A lot of these cases we can foresee the children at risk, and nothing is done or nothing can be done because of a lack of resources. So there is an issue to be addressed here, in terms of providing adequate resources,” she added.