President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey has reiterated his call for stiffer penalties to be imposed on those involved in Child Sexual Abuse in the country.
Humphrey was responding to the half-a-million dollars allocated in the EC$1.1 billion budget for 2018 by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
During the budget delivery, the Prime Minister disclosed that over 60% of the cases brought before the courts are related to Child Sexual Abuse which points to the severity of the problem.According to Dr. Mitchell, it is now time to extensively deal with the problem.
The Senate President said that the issue of Child Sexual Abuse is more “fundamental” than some people are making it out to be and that greater efforts should be made to grapple with it.
He pointed to “a cultural conditioning” where women are seen as “sexual objects” and that is being promoted in “our music”.
“It’s promoted in the musical forms of dancehall and thing. You can hear it even in the (songs) around Christmas time. This is a religious festival and how do you sing about a cock in me hand and so on and it’s promoted by that”, he said.
“So, that cultural conditioning is significantly responsible for how male persons look at women – the predominance of sexual messages”, added.
Sen. Humphrey contended that all of these contributing factors suggest that strengthening the law alone along with the punishment component is important but not far-reaching enough.
“…I believe the courts have been too lenient up until only recently in dealing with sexual offences and therefore the law must address this and changes must be made with where there are mandatory sentencing (and) stiff sentences.
“I’ve advocated the return of flogging and I believe it does work so I will repeat that but this cultural objectivising of women as sexual objects (should be addressed)”.
Sen. Humphrey, an avowed communist, was adamant that society should be prepared for some degree of censorship by the State in combating Child Sexual Abuse.
He was critical of the radio stations on the island for not engaging in self-censorship sufficiently enough to arrest the problem.
He said, “You turn to anyone of the radio stations, GBN not excluded and you listen to the music that is promoted amongst youth – it tells you why we have this cultural propensity and why it is sexual crimes are rising in this country because there is a cultural conditioning which tell men folks that a woman’s only worth is her sexual value.”
In his Budget presentation, Prime Minister Mitchell was clear that his government will be tough on offenders.
“Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear on this: Child abuse like rape, in all of its forms is an evil scourge that tears at the social fabric of our society and must be stopped now. Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Social Development has stepped up its efforts to deal with the issue”, he said.
PM Mitchell announced that a National Committee for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse was set up with the mandate to make recommendations to government and other stakeholders.
He said that a Special Victims Unit will be established in 2018 to further assist victims and their families with counseling and other support services.
In addition, he said that a special Hot Line will be installed to offer advice, information and other services that will benefit from the budgetary allocation of $500,000 to help implement the planned initiatives.
The Prime Minister told Parliament: “Mr. Speaker, we have also heard the overwhelming cries of our people and we are, therefore, pushing to enact the necessary legislative changes for the establishment of a Sex Offenders Registry.
“Mr. Speaker, let us be clear: While the Government is budgeting even more to deal with this issue, this will not be enough. As a people, our collective consciences must be shaken and we must find the resolve to take back our communities and protect our children and young people”, he said.