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Trinidad: More men impregnating teen girls — State bodies

By Shaliza Hassanali

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Ministry of Social Development and Family Services Permanent Secretary Jacinta Bailey-Sobers makes a point during yesterday’s JSC into the prevalence of teen pregnancies at Parliament, Port-of-Spain. * Nicole Drayton

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — State en­ti­ties re­main trou­bled that they are un­able to iden­ti­fy hun­dreds of adult males who im­preg­nate teenage school girls.

This was re­vealed yes­ter­day be­fore a Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on So­cial Ser­vices and Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion which held an in­quiry with of­fi­cials of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion (MOE), Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty (CA), Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices (MS­DFS), Health Min­istry (HM) and Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter —Gen­der and Child Af­fairs (OPM) at the Par­lia­ment Build­ing, Port-of-Spain.

The hear­ing looked at the preva­lence of teenage preg­nan­cy and its pur­pose was to min­imise the oc­cur­rence of teenage preg­nan­cy and pro­vide ser­vices and as­sis­tance to teenage par­ents.

Com­mit­tee chair­man Paul Richards shared star­tling da­ta ob­tained from the Health Min­istry which showed there were 3,777 cas­es of re­port­ed teenage preg­nan­cies for the pe­ri­od 2014 to 2018.

Of the 3,777 cas­es, Richards said 570 girls fell be­tween the 13 to 16 age brack­et, while there were 2,907 re­port­ed cas­es in the age group 17 to 19. On av­er­age, Richards said 755 teenage girls be­come preg­nant an­nu­al­ly.

Sta­tis­tics ob­tained by the MoE re­vealed that be­tween 2014 and 2019, ap­prox­i­mate­ly 47 preg­nant girls, af­ter giv­ing birth, re­turned to their sec­ondary school to con­tin­ue their ed­u­ca­tion, while 36 com­plete­ly with­drew from class­es.

Of the 3,777 preg­nant girls, Richards re­vealed that 1,395 men be­tween the ages 20 to 30 years had con­tributed to these preg­nan­cies, while 146 males fell in the age group 31 to 40, with 24 girls get­ting preg­nant for men be­tween the ages 41 to 50. On­ly one teen be­came preg­nant for a man whose age ranged 51 to 60. Richards said 142 men opt­ed not to re­veal their ages.

He al­so pro­vid­ed da­ta from the OPM which showed the num­ber of live births among teenage girls from 2008 to 2015 at five pub­lic hos­pi­tals.

“Un­der the age of 12, there were 35 live births. Be­tween 13 and 16 there was 2,645. Be­tween ages 17 and 19 there were 11,717 live births,” Richards said.

He agreed that the cas­es were “star­tling,” say­ing these fig­ures could be far more, bear­ing in mind they did not have sta­tis­tics from pri­vate doc­tors and hos­pi­tals.

MS­DFS per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Jac­in­ta Bai­ley-Sobers al­so told the com­mit­tee that a 2011 Glob­al School Health Sur­vey showed that 26 per cent of stu­dents were sex­u­al­ly ac­tive.

“13.2 per cent of those youths would have had sex­u­al in­ter­course be­fore the age of 13. And 17.6 per cent of stu­dents had sex­u­al in­ter­course with mul­ti­ple part­ners. An over­all 37.3 per cent of stu­dents would pur­chase or use a con­dom but on­ly if they felt it was nec­es­sary. So un­pro­tect­ed sex was preva­lent,” Bai­ley-Sobers said.

She al­so dis­closed that 351,000 youths un­der the age of 18 had al­so con­tract­ed sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

Dar­lene Smith, MOE guid­ance of­fi­cer of the Stu­dents Sup­port Ser­vices ad­mit­ted that teen fa­thers are of­ten scared to come for­ward, stat­ing that un­der the Romeo Clause some of them are not pun­ish­able by law.

Har­ri­lal Seecha­ran, MOE chief ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer at­trib­uted these preg­nan­cies to a num­ber of so­cio-eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al fac­tors. Stu­dents from some com­mu­ni­ties, he said, viewed sex­u­al ac­tiv­i­ty as “be­ing ma­cho.”

Fam­i­lies re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate

Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty di­rec­tor Safiya Noel ex­pressed con­cern that most of the fa­thers of the teen girls turn out to be adults who can be charged for statu­to­ry rape.

“That it­self caus­es the teenage moth­er, in many cas­es, to be tight-lipped and not to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion which is nec­es­sary for us. You find in­for­ma­tion on the fa­thers is very lit­tle. What we do along with the po­lice, we have to in­ves­ti­gate,” Noel said.

“But we get very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion from the moth­ers (girls)…that is our re­al­i­ty. We re­ly heav­i­ly on the po­lice as well to do their in­ves­ti­ga­tion and when the per­pe­tra­tors are brought we are able to get more in­for­ma­tion. Be­cause these per­pe­tra­tors are tar­get­ed for pros­e­cu­tion there is a con­cert­ed ef­fort by the child and the fam­i­ly to not pro­vide in­for­ma­tion.”

Noel said this was main­ly to pro­tect the adult men, whose iden­ti­ties re­main un­known.

The on­ly in­for­ma­tion that is forth­com­ing, Noel said, was that the per­pe­tra­tors live in the same com­mu­ni­ty with the preg­nant girl.

Richards ad­mit­ted that many of the girls be­come preg­nant as a re­sult of statu­to­ry rape, re­sult­ing in the per­pe­tra­tors go­ing “un­pros­e­cut­ed” which should nev­er hap­pen.

Mem­ber Glen­da Jen­nings-Smith asked the stake­hold­ers if any study had been un­der­tak­en by them to de­ter­mine if the men who im­preg­nate these girls are their step­fa­thers, neigh­bours, bi­o­log­i­cal fa­thers, class­mates or boyfriends.

Noel said no such re­search had been done.

Richards al­so en­quired if these per­pe­tra­tors were be­ing hauled be­fore the courts and jus­tice was be­ing served.

Bai­ley-Sobers could not say if jus­tice was be­ing ad­min­is­tered against such per­pe­tra­tors, say­ing this re­mit fell with­in the Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­istry.

Jen­nings-Smith ques­tioned if any of the per­pe­tra­tors in­volved in the 570 cas­es of teenage preg­nan­cy were hauled be­fore the court, which Noel promised to pro­vide the com­mit­tee with in writ­ing.

Mem­ber Es­mond Forde asked the stake­hold­ers if they were able to iden­ti­fy the fa­thers of these preg­nant teens.

“What is their back­ground? Are they re­peat­ed of­fend­ers? What is their ed­u­ca­tion­al sta­tus? Are they un­em­ployed? Are they, sor­ry to say, the maxi taxi touts who trav­el with these girls? Are they the PH or H taxis dri­vers?” Forde en­quired but got no an­swers from the of­fi­cials.

“Who is do­ing the tar­get­ed re­search? That is what we are not get­ting. We are get­ting the nice pol­i­cy an­swers and the great best prac­tice ap­proach,” Richards in­ter­ject­ed.

OPM per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Jacque­line John­son ad­mit­ted there was a lack of co­or­di­na­tion among the agen­cies, not­ing an at­tempt was made by the OPM to pull the agen­cies to­geth­er based on a na­tion­al child pol­i­cy, which was ap­proved by Cab­i­net. She ad­mit­ted there were 28 agen­cies ad­min­is­ter­ing child care in T&T and the Child Pro­tec­tion Unit was do­ing its part in pro­tect­ing chil­dren.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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