Betty-Ann Blaine Must Be Honest About Child Sexual Abuse

J-FLAG is urging Betty-Ann Blaine, Convenor of Hear the Children’s Cry, to be more responsible in her public utterances opposing the recognition of the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people.

Like all Jamaicans, J-FLAG is concerned about the prevalence of child abuse and is committed to supporting the authorities in making Jamaica a safe, cohesive and just place for all persons, including and especially our children.

The organization is however deeply concerned about the divisive and inaccurate nature of certain remarks from anti-gay activists such as Betty-Ann Blaine. The misuse of statistics and other relevant data to justify the retention of unjust laws and to further malign already vulnerable people is reckless and irresponsible. We encourage well-thinking Jamaicans to condemn such practices.

Based on data obtained from the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), 2756 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2012 of which 101 were buggery of boys and girls. This is a 42.5 per cent increase in reports of buggery compared to 2011 when 58 cases, involving both males and females, were reported. Ms. Blaine has a responsibility to explain the disparity between her assertion of a 74 per cent increase and the actual data,” Dane Lewis, Executive Director of J-FLAG.

The 42.5 per cent increase in reported incidents of buggery involving children over the past year is due in part to improved efficiency in the operations of OCR which has been successful in encouraging more Jamaicans to report child abuse. J-FLAG commends OCR and CISOCA for their exemplary work and continued dedication to the protection of the welfare of children. The data should be used to advocate for a more comprehensive and effective child protection system and to demonstrate that more needs to be done to end the victimization of our children. The statistics prove that the retention of the buggery law is not a lynchpin which prevents more buggery of children or an efficient deterrent for child sexual abuse.

J-FLAG strongly believes that retaining the buggery law in its current formulation is counter-intuitive and misguided if it is intended to protect children from sexual abuse. The Offences Against the Persons Act stipulates the maximum penalty for buggery (whether by force, duress, or consent) is ten years at hard labour. By contrast, pursuant to Section 10(4) of the Sexual Offences Act, any person found guilty of rape, which is narrowly defined as non-consensual penetration of a vagina by a penis, is liable to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This discrepancy and the resultant need for a gender and orifice neutral definition of rape has in the past been noted by our legislators but due to their fear of upsetting public (and religious) sentiment, young boys and girls remain vulnerable.

J-FLAG recognizes the panic some groups and individuals are experiencing but urge anti-gay activists to desist from distorting the truth. We encourage them to address the vulnerabilities of our children and other minority groups. Balanced dialogue is critical to advancing the creation of a healthy society.

All children should live in a society that is responsive to their needs. We must therefore ensure the justice system is strengthened so the appropriate penalties are applied to those unscrupulous persons who continue to abuse our children sexually, physically and psychologically without fear of punishment. We urge the formation of an active partnership between civil society and government to protect our children and other vulnerable Jamaicans from all forms of abuse and violence.

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