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Warning: Leave the underaged girls alone!

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The full force of the law will be brought to bear on men who take advantage of young girls’ folly or disadvantaged situations.{{more}}

Head of the Western Division of the Police, Superintendent Artis Davis, made the declaration following the arrest of nine men, who have been charged with having sex with a 12-year-old Barrouallie girl.

Davis told SEARCHLIGHT that the Commissioner of Police has challenged the members of the Force to be “watchful of these situations” and to apply the full weight of the law.

The men charged in this matter, ranging in ages from 64 to 28, appeared before Magistrate Donald Browne at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, April 14, and were remanded in custody until today for bail review.

The young girl is reportedly pregnant.

While the courts will decide as to the innocence or guilt of the accused, Lemmew Samuel of the Family Services Division has appealed to citizens to increase their vigilance in matters of child abuse in general, and more specifically sexual abuse.

He said that while what has happened to the child in this matter is tragic, he hopes it would serve as a catalyst to get the message of child abuse out even more strongly.

“It may have to come out strongly in this incident, each of us must see that we have a responsibility,” Samuel declared.

The outspoken probation officer said that in communities, when acts of abuse happen against a child and people turn a blind eye, they are aiding and abetting the perpetrators of the dastardly acts.

Samuel, along with Superintendent Davis condemned those who prey on the poverty of young girls to have their way with them.

Samuel is also calling for parents who accept “hush money” to drop charges, to also face charges in court.

This is a frustrating situation that Superintendant Davis told SEARCHLIGHT that the police also face.

“We would have completed all our work, finished our investigations and then the people (guardians) offer no evidence. It is indeed a painful situation,” Davis said.

Samuel, however, told SEARCHLIGHT that four pieces of legislation, which are currently before Cabinet, are intended to give strength to the efforts to combat child abuse and especially take the powers out of the hands of relatives when dealing with prosecution of these types of offences.

It will make it easier for social workers to do their jobs, Samuel contends.

In an article that appeared on the back page of SEARCHLIGHT’s June, 16, 2006, edition, consultant pediatrician at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, Dr Bharati Datta cried out for something to be done to protect children from sexual abuse.

She lamented in the article that was headlined “Men-ace”, that figures show that 90 per cent of teenage mothers who give birth at the hospital were being impregnated by older men, and even relatives.

Datta, who has been head of the pediatric department of the hospital for over 20 years, told SEARCHLIGHT that she has been speaking out about the plight of these young girls for years.

“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 daughters’ best interests,” Dr Data had said, as she recalled many occasions when tight-lipped female relatives would accompany the pregnant, under aged girls.

“Victims are pressured to relinquish their rights when a mother may be satisfied with what is given to her to keep quiet,” former head of the Family Court Sharon Morris Cummings stated in the same article.

According to Samuel, these concerns will soon be addressed.

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