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Men who have sex with minors must be brought to justice

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24.APR.09

Editor: I stay abreast of what is taking place in St. Vincent and occasionally submit an article of opinion to the local newspapers. I often contain myself when reading some of what is written, but this week feel forced to comment on last week’s headline “Police charge nine for sex with minor”. First, I applaud the newspapers for using this matter as a relevant exposé of what has been taking place in this country for years.{{more}}

Over a decade ago, I was having a conversation with a prominent Lawyer and expressing my concern and disgust for the rampant sexual improprieties which I observed taking place in St. Vincent. I was outraged and wanted to address the matter publicly. Several young women had used me as a confidant about what had been taking place in their villages and I sought advice about the best manner to approach the situation without endangering the informants. The Lawyer appeared taken aback and suggested I would only make myself “look bad”, especially since I also broached the topic of incest. He advised that I temper my vigilance since this subject was considered “taboo”. It was with a pained spirit that I was dissuaded from championing the cause of defenseless girls, mere children, many of whom were misguided and victimized by opportunistic predators who repeatedly engaged in the crime of stolen innocence.

I grew to understand that so-called “prominent” and “affluent” personalities of St. Vincent were so engaged in relationships with students from the Community College and other secondary schools that they staunchly resisted alteration of this status quo. In a highly chauvinistic society, women were still considered second-class citizens whose primary function served the satisfaction of men. But more than this, these moral midgets of men had convinced themselves that it was consensual. They deliberately ignored the fact that a twelve-year-old was in no psychological position to make decisions using mature, comprehensive process, and without shame continued to take advantage of children, and often their mothers, whose poverty warped their perspectives and steered them into seeing their children as avenues of income. As such, they relinquished parental responsibilities of protection in lieu of provision – disgraceful pennies their daughters may (or may not) receive. The teenage pregnancy statistics alone will tell the story. Glorified prostitution and statutory rape – this is the embarrassing legacy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And let it not be mistaken that young boys are excluded from this scenario.

From top to bottom, the moral fabric of our society is in tatters. It was St. Vincent, after all, that won dubious international acclaim by rape allegations against the Prime Minister. And it is again the morality of St. Vincent in question when we peruse the other headlines of last week’s paper: “Chateaubelair man shot in face”, “Barrouallie youths injured in spree of violence”, and the list goes on. I hate to speculate that it will only get worse before it gets better, and this is because the state of the economy is a reliable predictor of crime. Under this administration, as unemployment skyrockets and volumes of people move steadily below the poverty line, desperation will witness an increase in violent crimes, the “victimless” crime of prostitution, and sadly, child sex labour. I know that all people want nothing more than to live in decency, dignity and honour; Vincentians should use the next election to demand more.

John Smith

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