90% of teenaged moms impregnated by older men
Front Page
June 16, 2006
90% of teenaged moms impregnated by older men

Consultant Pediatrician at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, Dr. Bharati Datta believes that at least 90% of teenage mothers that give birth at the hospital are impregnated by an older man or a relative.

Although such figures cannot be verified, Dr. Datta, who has headed the Kingstown Hospital’s pediatric department for 23 years, is convinced that we have serious reason for concern, and is insisting that the plight of our children should take priority over other issues on the to-do list of the powers that be.{{more}}

A recent case that Datta had to deal with in her capacity as an honorary Rotarian, has added to the already deep concern that she has been carrying and speaking about for years.

A 14-year-old girl recently gave birth to a child that was born with a serious, rare heart defect that required overseas medical intervention. While all the arrangements were being made with the assistance of the Rotary Club South for the infant to travel, it was discovered that this young girl’s “baby daddy” is 23-years-old. The girl had been abused, her innocence taken from her since age 13. Dr. Datta believes that such occurrences happen too often and insists that “adults in society at large should not be able to sleep when they think about this.”

The thing that troubles Dr. Datta is that the present legislation is quite antique and inadequate to deal with the situation. “These young girls usually come with an older female relative who is very tight lipped about what has happened to the girls.” Dr. Datta sadly told SEARCHLIGHT that in her experience, many mothers, for reasons varying from financial needs to low self esteem, turn a blind eye to obvious abuse and unlawful sexual behavior by men, even relatives, as it regards their young daughters.

If you attempt to sweep all such cases into the bag of poverty, the concerned doctor insists that it is a misguided viewpoint. Admitting that most repeat teenage pregnancies tend to be associated with poor families, there are also some cases coming out of well-to-do families.

“These cases are not reaching the courts because too much power is in the hand of the parents who are either paid or are too afraid to act in their daughter’s best interest,” stated the very visibly moved physician, who insists that the time is now, and far gone where legislative changes should be made to make the reporting of sexual abuse mandatory. “It is a battle and it must be a collaborative effort.”

Dr. Datta remembers crying profusely when she obtained information of a case where for months, a mother would sleep on the ground and command her 13-year-old daughter to have sexual intercourse on the bed with her stepfather.

As though the picture wasn’t dark enough, Dr. Datta told SEARCHLIGHT that it wasn’t uncommon to hear of four and five-year-old girls being treated for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Joining the chorus of concern is former President of the Family Court, Sharon Morris-Cummings, who said that sexual abuse of children is a serious problem that is under- reported and is not getting the attention that it deserves from all sectors.

While Morris-Cummings understands the nation’s outflow of emotions when tragedies like the recent vehicular accident deaths occur, she contends that the plight of sexual abuse facing our children happens more frequently, and has a more devastating and long term effect on our society.

She told SEARCHLIGHT, echoing the sentiments of Dr. Datta that in her time on the bench at the family court, she had seen all varieties of sexual abuse cases, including some involving so called respectable men in society, wealthy families, and victims as young as nine.

She too believes that legislative changes need to be made so that defendants can receive the justice and help they need even if a parent is willing to accept a payoff or tries to save “family name.” The legal minds, in her estimation must come together and get the current laws amended.

“Victims are pressured to relinquish their rights when a mother may be satisfied with what is given to her to keep quiet.” stated Morris-Cummings who believes that although we all know what is happening, as a society we are not crying out enough.

Fresh from an expert group meeting of the United Nation’s Criminal Justice Reform Unit, Morris-Cummings told SEARCHLIGHT that it was the opinion of many of the other 20 experts in the meeting that financial restraint must not be a deterrent when it comes to reaching out for the protection of children.

While the standard of flag bearer Sweden may not be realistically attainable at this time, she believes that definite small steps can be taken. In Sweden there is a special unit for child abuse within the police force. Among a host of other things, children are given specially designed, child friendly call cards by police where the officers are identified on a first name basis, making it easy for children to seek help when it is needed.

“Our language when questioning children must change, a child protection unit can be set up, start small and build with time and resources,” advises Morris-Cummings who stresses the crucial nature of the problem.

The legal consultant told SEARCHLIGHT that efforts should also be made to establish temporary foster homes to protect at risk children during trials so that they are not at the mercy of selfish parents who seek to pressure them in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. She too is insisting that teachers, doctors, school counselors among others be mandated to report any suspicion of abuse involving children.

Dr. Datta expressed concern to SEARCHLIGHT that although St Vincent and the Grenadines signed on to the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in September of 1993, no hard hitting, direction changing legislation has been brought into law even though we all know that many of our nation’s children are being abused daily. While she commends steps taken in the areas of health care and education, she is firm in her belief that much more must be and can be done in the area of sexual abuse.

Keeping in mind that the unlawful sexual intercourse is defined as sexual intercourse with a girl 15 years and under, consider these jaw dropping statistics attained from the High Court office. Between 2000 and 2005 there were 237 children born to mothers under age 15, each one of these a potential unlawful sexual intercourse case. However, only 67 unlawful sexual intercourse cases were brought before the courts in the same time period. Add to the mix the facts that the 2005 statistics are incomplete and not every mother that gave birth had her age recorded. Twenty-five such cases have been filed at the family court between January and April this year.

When we spoke to recently appointed president of the family court, Colleen Mc Donald she expressed great concern for our nation’s children.

Describing the problem as a very urgent one, Magistrate Mc Donald told SEARCHLIGHT that the problem needs urgent attention. “Most cases appear to be settled out of court so when the complaint comes before the court they are not willing to offer any evidence.”

The magistrate who assumed the crucial position of family court head in February of this year told SEARCHLIGHT that she is concerned that these settlements are not good for our nation’s children, adding that most of the victims are under the age of fourteen. “The legislation needs urgent updating.”