Minister Thomas: 16 is still a child

Minister for Social Development, Delma Thomas has approached the United Nations for assistance to deal with problems of teenage pregnancy.

The senior government minister told reporters at a recent post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex that the request was made at a session held to assess member states on the status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

According to Minister Thomas she expounded on the Programme for Adolescent Mothers (PAM) but alluded to the fact that a lot of persons who get pregnant in school are still falling through the cracks.

“The reason for that is after you have a child, it’s difficult with taking care of that child and going to school if there is no support system, and we are looking to get support system from other organisations and …we will continue to engage them to see how we can deal with the whole issue,” she said.

The Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North-west stressed that in order to curb the problem of teenage pregnancy, government needed to look at preventative measures.
In addition, she said lawmakers must reconsider the age of sexual consent at 16.

“If you’re telling me at 18 years I can vote, at 21 years I can get a loan in the bank, then how can you tell me at 16, I can give consent to sex. Those are things that we must look at in going forward. We have to look at that seriously in order to make a dent in the whole issue of teenage pregnancy because at 16 you’re still in school – at 16 what can you do for yourself?

“Can you take care of a child? And a lot of time at 16, when you get pregnant, there are no fathers around and therefore, we have to look at that law in the future”.

The Social Development Minister stressed the need for consultations to be held with stakeholders to address all the related issues.

“You can’t do anything on your own, you must consult with the legal persons, with schools, with Education, Ministry of Health, Faith-based organizations…”, she said.
“… It is something in my mind that has to be done, it must be looked at to protect our children if we really want to seriously deal with the issue of MDGs then we have to protect them at all ages. 16 is still a child,” she added.

Minister Thomas also identified another major problem facing adolescent mothers is stigma and discrimination and there is need to confront it.

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