Un­cer­tainty sur­rounds law to iden­tify men who im­preg­nate un­der­age girls

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Ryon Jones Staff Re­porter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

JUS­TICE MIN­IS­TER Del­roy Chuck is not con­vinced that amend­ments to the Reg­is­tra­tion, Births and Deaths Act – mak­ing it com­pul­sory for fa­thers’ names to be added to birth cer­tifi­cates – will have the de­sired ef­fect.

It has long been ad­vo­cated that amend­ments be made to the act as a means of en­sur­ing chil­dren know who their fa­thers are, as well as aid in the pros­e­cu­tion of men who have sex with and im­preg­nate girls un­der the age of con­sent.

“It is go­ing to be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to en­force, be­cause first of all, fa­thers are go­ing to deny that they are the fa­thers and then to go through a process of DNA, and so on, it will be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult,” Chuck told The Sun­day Gleaner.

The min­is­ter fur­ther rea­soned that moth­ers un­der the age of 16 may not want to name their chil­dren’s fa­thers, so as not to in­crim­i­nate them as hav­ing sex with a mi­nor is a crim­i­nal of­fence.

“There would have to be a proac­tive ap­proach from CISOCA (Cen­tre for the In­ves­ti­ga­tion of Sex­ual Of­fences and Child Abuse) to re­ally co­or­di­nate where, for in­stance, the fa­ther’s name is at­tached to the birth of a child, and she is un­der 16, then it im­me­di­ately shows up that the fa­ther should be pros­e­cuted,” Chuck said.

“It might be that the mother says a man is the fa­ther and he might very well deny it, and for the Crown to prove that he is the fa­ther may well de­mand a DNA test, and he may not con­sent to giv­ing a DNA test. So it will be very chal­leng­ing to pros­e­cute a per­son based on the birth cer­tifi­cate.”

He con­tin­ued, “Sure, the law can be im­ple­mented where the fa­ther is re­ported on the birth cer­tifi­cate, but in terms of prose­cut­ing there could be se­ri­ous chal­lenges.”

I ac­knowl­edge that you can’t force the mother to give the name, but I don’t be­lieve that would de­feat the ben­e­fit of leg­is­la­tion that would set out a high de­gree of re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so.


Ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent Re­pro­duc­tive Health Sur­vey con­ducted in 2008, Ja­maica had an ado­les­cent preg­nancy rate of 72 per 1,000 girls com­pared to a global av­er­age of 49 and a re­gional av­er­age of 65.

While the rate is thought to be trend­ing down, it is still be­lieved to be way too high, and head of CISOCA, Enid Ross-Ste­wart, said in the ma­jor­ity of the cases, the girls “pro­tect the men with all they have” and hence, refuse to di­vulge their names.

It is for this very rea­son, op­po­si­tion spokesman on ed­u­ca­tion, the Rev­erend Ron­ald Th­waites, who has been ad­vo­cat­ing in Par­lia­ment for the manda­tory nam­ing of fa­thers for close to two decades, be­lieves new leg­is­la­tion must be passed to make it manda­tory.

In re­sponse to Th­waites in Par­lia­ment in May 2009, then Prime Min­is­ter Bruce Gold­ing had said the leg­is­la­tion should be in place in another three months, but it never ma­te­ri­alised. In May of this year, cur­rent Health Min­is­ter Dr Christo­pher Tufton an­nounced that the leg­is­la­tion was be­ing pre­pared, while speak­ing at the of­fi­cial launch of the ‘Good Health Be­gins at Home’ ini­tia­tive in Man­dev­ille, Manch­ester.

“I ac­knowl­edge that you can’t force the mother to give the name, but I don’t be­lieve that would de­feat the ben­e­fit of leg­is­la­tion that would set out a high de­gree of re­spon­si­bil­ity to do so,” Th­waites rea­soned.

“It is not go­ing to be per­fect, but if there is a law that says it is manda­tory for a man to ac­knowl­edge the birth of the child or the pro­vi­sion that he must un­dergo test to de­ter­mine if there is a doubt, then I be­lieve that will go a far way to in­duce re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Chil­dren’s Ad­vo­cate Di­a­hann Gor­don Har­ri­son agrees with Chuck that there will be some amount of co­nun­drum in terms of en­force­ment, but be­lieves it is very im­por­tant to at least set the tone.

“This is not go­ing to be a fool­proof so­lu­tion at all; it can’t be be­cause you need per­sons to co­op­er­ate, but cer­tainly, at least if it is there as a base it would tend to sug­gest to per­sons that this is the trust we are go­ing with; this is what we are say­ing that you should do,” Gor­don Har­ri­son said.

“And usu­ally, when you have some kind of rule, you will have some per­sons com­ply­ing and some per­sons who breach it, and cer­tainly, I think be­cause of how chronic our sit­u­a­tion is, with a whole host of girls turn­ing up at Vic­to­ria Ju­bilee who are below the age of con­sent and


giv­ing birth, then we need to at least see this as one in a num­ber of re­sponses that can per­haps give some as­sis­tance to the sit­u­a­tion.”

Hear the Chil­dren’s Cry founder, Betty Ann Blaine, echoed the views of Th­waites and Gor­don Har­ri­son that in any case of sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor, DNA test­ing should be manda­tory.

“The law has to work and we have to make up our minds how it is go­ing to work. You can­not be abus­ing a child and just get away with it; the most bla­tant thing is when you see the child preg­nant,” Blaine ar­gued.

“If we are go­ing to say we can’t in­ves­ti­gate these cases be­cause the girls won’t talk, then might as well we throw up our hands and say for­get it then.”


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