According to the World Health Organization, child maltreatment “is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power”.
SVG’s Domestic Violence Act defines sexual abuse as “any sexual conduct that abuses. humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the sexual integrity of the applicant”.
Moreover, SVG’s Prevention of Trafficking in Person’s Act states that sexual exploitation means “compelling a person to engage in –
(b) the production of child pornography or other pornographic material; or
(c) any other sexual activity,
by means of threat, coercion, abduction, the effects of drugs, force, fraud or abuse of power”.
Many people in SVG have been shocked and horrified at recent reports in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (“SVG”) concerning a pornographic video being circulated that allegedly depicts a minor performing oral sex on her father.
According to these reports, the alleged perpetrator of this despicable act has been arrested and charged by the police with two counts of indecent assault.
These reports remind us of the high prevalence of child sexual abuse in SVG. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are usually persons known to the victim and this form of abuse can have a devastating physical, mental, and/or emotional impact on victims for years or a lifetime.
These reports also continue to expose the inadequacies of the legal system in SVG to effectively tackle various forms of child sexual abuse. Amongst them, oral and anal penetration are disturbingly not included in the definition of rape, and rape is not recognized as a gender-neutral offence under SVG’s Criminal Code.
All forms of child sexual abuse, violence, and exploitation must be strongly condemned in SVG. Children are vulnerable groups in Vincentian society who deserve to be protected, not abused, or exploited by selfish adults.
I encourage all persons who may be circulating the alleged pornographic video involving the minor to immediately desist from doing so. The circulation of this video in the public domain only causes more harm to the affected child.
Today, I encourage Vincentians to continue to speak up and out against child sexual abuse and to hold perpetrators of such reprehensible acts accountable. I also encourage the Government of SVG to quickly review, enact and enforce better laws to deal with perpetrators who commit heinous sexual crimes against minors in line with recognized international human rights standards.
Child sexual abuse is a violation of the inherent dignity and human rights of minors. Let us all continue to educate ourselves on this form of abuse and work together to end child sexual abuse in SVG!
Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian Barrister-at-law and Solicitor. He is also the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]