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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Trinidad and Tobago: Incest A very big problem

Incest has been described as “a very big problem” in Trinidad and Tobago, which needs to be seriously addressed.

“It is a huge problem. People do not want to face what is really going on. Most perpetrators are well known to the family. They can be a stepfather, uncle,” said Glennis Hyacenth, executive director of Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity (ASPIRE).

She said this was a difficult situation for families to face and they prefer to keep it quiet. They also ignore the pregnancy. In an interview with Newsday, Hyacenth said children from 11 to 14 years go to hospitals and have their babies and no reports are made to the police stations.

Statutory rape–sex with someone under the age of 16 is also a problem which ASPIRE said had to be addressed. Hyacenth said the fathers of the babies being born to young girls were men who were “quite older”.

She described the draft gender policy as “a total disappointment” with respect to sexual and reproductive health of women and youths. ASPIRE has spent years lobbying for reform of TT’s abortion laws but has not been able to get discussion on the government agenda.

Hyacenth said for the past two years, the focus has been on the development of policies and protocols for safe and legal terminations of pregnancy. abortions are legal under certain circumstances such as saving a life, preserving the mental and physical health of the woman.

“Many health care professionals and policy makers are not very clear on what the law is. We are pushing that message that abortion is legal therefore policy guidelines and policies are needed for that legal ambit of the law.”

ASPIRE has been lobbying through education and heightening awareness with different interest groups.

Hyacenth said many people prefer to not face the issue of abortion but her group deals with it and wanted to see unsafe abortions eradicated. Reducing the number of abortions taking place is a goal of ASPIRE. The group also wants comprehensive sexual education in schools.

“Many young people are engaging in things that they have no knowledge about. There are also many myths about terminating pregnancy like drinking a hot Guinness. It is important that the Government and Ministry of Education look seriously at that.”

Hyacenth said abortion was the end stage but something had to be done to prevent this.

ASPIRE held its annual general meeting a few weeks ago and featured speaker, Diana Mahabir- Wyatt, addressed the theme, “The Cycle of Sexual Violence Against Women Rape and Incest, Unwanted Pregnancies and Abortion”. Mahabir-Wyatt highlighted the female secondary school students who were prostituting themselves to support their households.

January 3 2010