Sunday, February 9, 2014

Commentary: Let's all take responsibility to protect and guide our children

The new style in Trinidad and Tobago is to blame the government; it is like a tidal wave - blame the government for any and everything. If it rains, blame the government. If it doesn't blame the government.

I acknowledge that the government must take blame for many things but when are we as citizens, leaders, parents and others who make up our communities going to start taking some responsibility for our actions and what happens in our respective communities? And more specifically, when are we going to take responsibility for raising our children and protecting them from harm?

When a 23-year old man rapes and impregnates a 12-year-old child why do you point fingers at the government? No matter how much policing any government does it cannot stop what is going on inside people's homes if the adults in the home do not take responsibility for what goes on there.

When people in authority betray that trust and attack children, who is to blame? 

When the education minister spoke last week about the problem of teenage pregnancies the blame went to doctors - jail them, was the popular chorus in the media. But I didn't hear anyone talk about parental responsibility. Don't parents pay attention anymore to where their children are going and what they are doing?
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Friday described rape of minors as “heinous” and said she would not tolerate any excuses. "They are heinous crimes against children...a child’s life is gone forever," she said as she announced measures to try to curb the problem.  

Read the story: PM: New police unit to deal with sexual offences against children

The law is clear on dealing with people who attack children. Section 6(1) of the Sexual Offences Act states that anyone who is found guilty of having sex with a female under 14, who is not his wife, is liable to be imprisoned to life in prison.

Section 7 (1) of the Sexual Offences Act says a first-time offender who has sex with a female between the age of 14 and 16, who is not his wife, is liable to 12 years in prison. And a repeat offender faces 15 years imprisonment.
The "epidemic" has been going on for decades. Check the statistics and you would see that the figures for teen pregnancies over the past 15 years have been constant, which means that this abuse of children by adults has been going on for 15 years or more.

The first line of defence is the home and the second is the environment in which children are raised and live. The pollution of mass and social media with messages about sex adds to the problem. Advertising thrives on sexual messages and mass media in Trinidad and Tobago have no controls on what children see, read and hear. 

Modern technology gives children too easy access to these messages. The behaviour of adults and the mimicry of such behaviour by children also contributes to the problem.

We are dealing with an issue that involves society as a whole, not just the government. And we must confront it and protect our children.

How can we reach a stage where a principal of a school is facing 75 sex-related charges involving a 12-year-old and other children. If this man, who lives in a small community as Scarborough, Tobago is facing that many charges why no one noticed until now? 

Read the story:

The problem is most likely that the victims - out of fear or shame or both - could not tell their story to anyone, including mom and dad. And that is the greatest dilemma facing us. We are suffering from a crisis of poor or inadequate parenting in Trinidad and Tobago.

Parents have an obligation to nurture a relationship with their children so that children can talk freely about their problems and fears. If such a situation existed the alleged attacker of these children in Tobago and the one who impregnated a 12-year old would have not have been "safe" for so long.

Many years ago as a reporter in Trinidad I heard Dr Eric Williams chastise parents for their lack of parenting. He said too many parents forget their responsibility and find every excuse to fete and leave their children alone. He even accused some parents of deserting their children so they could run off to a fete. That was more than 30 years ago and it seems the problem has only grown worse since then.

I won't repeat some other charges Williams made against parents but he was making a valid point that for many parents, going to a fete or leaving the TV to be children's babysitters is more important than providing proper parental care and guidance. In today's connected world that problem is expanded because of the easy access to the internet and social media.
Are we considering the effects of ads such as these on children?
Let's stop blaming and start taking responsibility. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children and they have to be extra vigilant to save children from the sexual predators who inhabit our society and even infiltrate schools and churches. And magistrates and judges have a duty to jail anyone they find guilty of attacking our children.

There is an African proverb that says, "It takes an entire village to raise one child". Let us all become parents of every child and make Trinidad and Tobago a protective village where children can grow and blossom through our guidance and protection.

Jai Parasram - 09 February 2014

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai