Of responsible adult conduct and teen pregnancies
February 27, 2024
Of responsible adult conduct and teen pregnancies

In another few months, this country will join with others globally to celebrate children in observation of Child Month in May. Issues enshrined in the Articles of the Convention on the Rights of a Child, a Convention which this country ratified in 1993, are usually emphasised during the attendant activities. It is always pertinent to take stock of the situation regarding our children- examine how they are faring, but not just during these special occasions.

Over the past few days two bodies of information was shared in the public domain, both having to do with the welfare of children. In Parliament last week, we heard that the Government is moving to construct two homes for at risk and abused children- a positive step.

And at a Peri-natal Conference, OBGYN Doctor, Sherina Slater, shared information on teen pregnancies and deliveries at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital for 2023. While the data presented points to a decline in numbers of teen pregnancies and deliveries at that health facility, it was also revealed that a 10 year old was among those who gave birth, so too a few others who were not many years older- 14 and under. It begs the question, how as adults are we engaging with those of tender years among us? How do we see our children, as tender shoots to be nurtured, or objects to be sexually used? A child of 10 years is just that-a child, and therefore CANNOT give consent to a sexual encounter to the point of becoming pregnant. Unlike in some countries where the age of consent is much lower (11 years in Nigeria) for example, in St Vincent and the Grenadines while there is no specific legal provision stating the age of consent for a female, constructively that age is 15 years given that Statutory rape by law for females is age 15 and under.

However, one would much rather see that our children are encouraged to embrace the range of educational opportunities available to them for their own development. Adults exercising responsible conduct will certainly help ensure that they can do this.

In this country, sadly, we are aware that many girls suffer sexual abuse at the hands of persons who are close to them, including their dads. Appropriate legislation, and centres where victims can receive rehabilitative care are important stop gaps. But these apply only after the fact when significant damage may already have been done.

At a June, 2002 meeting, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was considering an initial report from St Vincent and the Grenadines in which issues of child abuse, street children, child pregnancy and abandoned children were examined. It concluded that there was need for action plans, alongside efforts to change the culture and attitude of the society regarding the rights of the child. In those rights are enshrined the principle that childhood is a special, protected time in which children must be allowed to grow and learn. This requires an attitude shift among the men of our nation to love, protect and nurture our children and not make them mothers at 10 and 14 years of age. The change has to be with the individual; men please step forward.