PROACTIVE STANCE NEEDED ON STATUTORY RAPE
- Last Updated on 20.03.2015
Ms. Cain, a mother of a one month old girl, was brutally gunned down along the Belmont Circular Road as she walked with a male companion.
The laws of Trinidad and Tobago list the legal age at which a male or a female citizen is permitted to have sexual intercourse as 16 years and over.
According to the Sexual Offences Act, statutory rape is committed when an adult sexually penetrates a person who is incapable of consenting to sex under the age of 16 since these persons are considered to be vulnerable.
Attorney at Law, Mr. Martin George, said despite the law being clear, there are many discretions the courts may take into account.
“Under 14, it doesn’t matter whether the female consents or not. That is statutory rape, you are guilty. It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t matter whether you thought she was older than 14. So the law is very, very clear in a circumstance like that. Between the ages of 14 and 16, the law does impose some discretion, they look at the question of whether she has consented but even if she has consented, they look at the question also of whether you genuinely believed that this person was more than 16 years old. So it does give you some room there to maneuver.”
Counselor at the Rape Crisis Society, Ms. Amanda Ackbarali-Ramdial, told C News that children need to be protected and society needs to take a proactive stance against statutory rape.
“People tend to be very, very concerned about statistics and very often, as Counselors here, we wonder what is it people want to hear in terms of how bad child sexual abuse and incest and statutory rape is in Trinidad and Tobago and if there is a mind-blowing figure, then what? Is it that people are waiting to hear that figure then to do something about it?”
She believes people are aware of the law, however minors are not aware of the risk.
“I think people generally, if they don’t know the specifics of the law, they have an idea that it is wrong and it is unhealthy for a girl who is 16 or younger to become pregnant or to be at risk of becoming pregnant. What people are willing to do about it, now that is a different story. People tend to be very afraid to report allegations of abuse.”
Mr. George urged officials to take statutory rape more seriously, especially where children have access to stimulating material.
In 2012, statistics show that there were 689 reports of sexual offences being committed, with a total of 484 reports being made in 2011.