INDEPEDENT Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh yesterday criticised mothers who fail to report when their children are sexually abused.
Deyalsingh’s criticism featured during a public hearing held by the Special Select Committee on the Sexual Offenders Amendment Bill 2019 with six civil society groups at Tower D of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Centre.
Representatives of the Child Welfare League, Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV), Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), Vision on Mission, Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) and Womantra felt placing people who fail to report sexual offences on the sexual offenders registry was “an overreach.”
Deyalsingh said many of the offenders were “abused as children.” He wondered why some mothers “never stepped up” and reported when their children were sexually abused by people in their own homes. “Those mothers who encourage who encourage this are like maternal pimps,” he charged.
Deyalsingh knew of cases where doctors do not report sexual abuse against children. He spoke about a doctor who encountered a case where a teenage girl was sexually abused. Before the doctor could report the matter, Deyalsingh said, “The teenager took out the phone and showed a picture of ‘short man’ and ‘short man’ was the boyfriend, with a gang leader with guns.
He argued that if sexual abuse of children is not reported, TT would continue to have “2,500 pregnancies each year.” Deyalsingh said there should be “o” and “n” classifications for offenders and people who fail to report sexual offences, respectively, on the registry.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said under the law “mandatory reporting isn’t a strict liability thing.’ Al-Rawi explained “You saw it, you knew it, you did’nt report it. You must fail to have a reasonable excuse for not doing what you did.”
Independent Senator Sophia Chote asked if under-reporting would increase if people who fail to report sexual offences are put on the registry
CADV president Roberta Clarke maintained these people should not be placed on the registry. But she agreed with Al-Rawi that the “pimp who drugged someone and has someone being raped” should be placed on the registry.
CCHR president Diana Mahabir-Wyatt said many people do not report sexual offences against children because they are afraid of being killed.
She related a case in Tobago where a teacher was murdered by an alleged sexual offender after a student reported being abused. WINAD representative Leslie Reobertson-Tony said there should be other measures to encourage people to report sexual offences against children.
Reobertson-Tony suggested loss of employment or license could be used to encourage professional people to report such matters. She also said many offenders are not paedophiles but people who engage in relations with teenagers.