Thursday, February 29, 2024

T&T warns rapists


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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Trinidad and Tobago government has signalled its intention to send a strong message to taxi drivers, stepfathers and any other person who commits sexual offence against young people in the country. 
“Maxi-taxi drivers, people who work ‘PH’ (private hire) and even stepfathers, if you believe sometimes there are circumstances… (and) you sexually abuse a person because the mother is dependent on you for a living, (expecting) that the mother would terrorise the child and the child will be afraid to talk, beware,’ Junior National Security Minister Subhas Panday said as he piloted an amendment  to  the Evidence Amendment Act in the Senate on Tuesday..
“If that child complains a long time after the incident, this legislation, as it stands here, would catch you,” he said.
Panday said the bill provides for the abolition of the doctrine of recent complaint in cases involving sexual offences. It means that “if a week after, or a year after you commit a sexual offence, you don’t hear about it (from the police), don’t feel you are off the hook at all because long after (the crime is committed), that person can complain”.
The bill states the judge shall give a warning to the jury that an absence of complaint or a delay in complaining (about a sexual offence) does not necessarily indicate the allegation the offence was committed is false, and the judge shall also inform the jury that there may be good reason why a victim of a sexual assault may refrain from making, or may hesitate in making, a complaint about the assault.
Opposition Senator Terrence Deyalsingh, quoting figures provided by the Rape Crisis Centre for 2009, said by far the biggest category of rapes occurred when women were sexually assaulted by persons they knew.
Deyalsingh said in 2009 the Annual Report of the Rape Crisis Centre had documented 132 cases of rape, 63 cases of incest and 173 cases of child sexual abuse.
He told legislators that there were four offences for victims age zero to four years old (pre-school), 18 cases against children age five to 11 years old, 69 cases against victims age 12 to 17 years old, 68 cases against victims age 18 to 26 years old, 53 cases against victims age 27 to 35 years old, and 11 cases against victims 54-plus years old. “When you break down the categories of offenders, or accused in these cases, in 2009 strangers accounted for eight of those rapes, gang-related rapes (were) four, but — this is where things get frightening Mr President and this is where our women have to be kept careful — acquaintance or date-rape is by far the biggest category.” He said.
“Women are being raped by people they know, people who they go out on dates with,” Deyalsingh said, suggesting the actual number of rapes in Trinidad and Tobago is far higher than the number reported by the Rape Crisis Centre.
 “If a similar situation exists here, then what we are seeing with these figures is simply the tip of the iceberg.”
The debate in the Senate comes as six students are due to appear in court on Wednesday for allegedly raping a 12 year-old school girl.
Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles described the act as “horrendous” and warned that rapes were taking place across the country.
 “It is the extent to which we create an environment that allows a lot of people to come forward and talk about it,” she added.
Beckles said many people had problems reporting such criminal acts to the police, their teachers and even their mothers.
“Because a lot of them believe that their mothers will not believe that they are speaking the truth,” Beckles said, adding that it took years before victims could be comfortable to tell a relative, a friend or another person about the incident.
 Beckles, an attorney, said as a Government and as a Parliament, “all of us in here have some kind of responsibility to improve the justice system”.
 “We have to train police officers to be gender-sensitive, the training of judges and magistrates who understand the complexities of these matters,” she added. (CMC)


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