(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Local clergyman Kenroy Edwards believes it is time Jamaica changes the age at which an individual may give consent to sexual relations.
Speaking on yesterday’s Jamaica Observer front page story, which detailed the plight of a grandmother whose 13-year-old granddaughter is said to be sexually involved with a 50-year-old man, the Freedom Evangelical Association pastor said that it is time a serious conversation is had on the matter.
Edwards is proposing that the age of consent be raised to at least 18 years, the age at which the law recognises an individual as an adult.
“We have it by law that the child is considered an adult at 18 years old. At 16 years old, still in school, living with parents, you want the child to be responsible enough to partake in an activity that has certain risks to it. For example, the child might not be mentally ready, might not be physically ready, might not be emotionally ready, but you want that child to have the free will to act as an adult should, and when something goes wrong you put all the blame on the child. The blame should go on the system,” said Edwards.
He added that the present age of 16 is an impediment to legal prosecution when misconduct is discovered.
“That’s why so many cases of grown adults having sex with minors go under the radar, especially when society says at 16 you can go ahead and have sex. The cover-up business and the lack of effort by the general public to correct and protect our children need to come to an end. Too many adults have moved away from nurturing and safeguarding to ‘dem feel big, so mek dem gwaan,” Edwards, who mentors at-risk youth, said.
The Observer reported that the child is believed to be in a sexual relationship with a 50-year-old taxi driver after Edwards and her grandmother contacted the newspaper. The two had said that the police have been less than accommodating since they reported the matter.
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The Observer was told that the child’s grandmother first suspected that there was an issue when the child began getting home late after school and was “spending large sums of money” while at school.
Checks were made and it was revealed that the money was coming from the taxi driver, who operates in the Portmore area and who the child has repotedly visited on multiple occasions.
The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) had mentioned to the Observer that it could not medically examine the child unless she confessed to being sexually active. However, an investigation would be conducted on the premise that the man was still attempting to contact the child and was, up to the time of the police report, still providing her with money.
Yesterday, the Observer learnt that a forensic examination of the child’s cellphone will be conducted as the police try to piece the case together.
The child’s grandmother is also expected to again meet with head of CISOCA, Senior Superintendent Charmaine Shand, today.