Aspects of the new children’s act were discussed at a high-powered workshop on Tobago’s Response to Sexual Assault, which was organised by the Division of Health and Social Services recently.
The workshop was attended by stakeholders involved in the battle against all forms of sexual and domestic abuse on the island including doctors, nurses, social workers, the police and the media.
Leading the discussion was Gaietry Pargass of the Ministry of Gender, Youth Affairs who pointed out that no one under the age of 18 years can give consent for any form of sexual penetration, according to the new law.
“A conviction also carries a stiff jail term of life imprisonment for sex offenders,” she declared.
According to Pargass, the new children’s act though passed in the year 2000 but only assented to in 2012. All that is needed now is for the new law to be proclaimed for its provisions to be enforced,” she stated.
Pargass also pointed out that for “sexual touching” there was a dual age of consent regime.
“The age of consent is 16 years and under for some forms of sexual touching that are considered lesser conducts while for the more grievous conducts the age of consent has been increased to 18 years,” she stated.
There is also a section of the Act that deals with “sexual grooming” where offenders could be charged for using the internet, as well as giving snacks and sweets to minors with the intent of grooming them for sexual activities when they are older,” explained Pargass.
Under the new act, a Children’s Authority Board of Management has been appointed to exercise such powers and functions as have been conferred on it, according to Pro-Tem Director of the Children’s Authority Sherifa Ali-Abdullah.
In response to questioning, Ali-Adullah revealed that Tobago House of Assembly (THA) was given representation on the Children’s Authority of one director.
“We still waiting on the THA to send its representative to the board,” she declared.
Investigations by Tobago News revealed that DHSS Administrator Ethlyn John was appointed as the THA representative about a year ago.
The duties of the Children’s Authority include: promoting the well-being of the child and act as an advocate to promote the rights of children in Trinidad and Tobago.