Thedefinition of a minor is that of "a person under eighteen years of age" (Trinidad and Tobago 11 Nov. 1986, Sec. 2).
Between the months of January 2005 and August 2005, "there were 135 individual child clients under 18 years of age, 39% of which were male, and 61% female. Theabuse reported was as follows:" 71 cases of physical abuse, 126 of emotional abuse, 34 of sexual abuse, 13 of incest, 61 of verbal abuse, 9 of financial abuse, 23 of threats and 64 of isolation/neglect (obtained from the National Domestic Violence Hotline).
Noted, however, was that child abuse statistics were not collected by the Central Statistical office and that differing organizations may even have conflicting reports, depending on the cases reported to them. Moreover these organizations can only deal with the cases reported to them, which does not paint a full picture.
Dr. David E. Bratt, a pediatrician stated in “The Trinidad Guardian” (10 May 2005) that “child abuse is rampant in T&T. It is so common that it is often not seen and has become part of our daily behaviour...our legal system is such that you can kick a baby to death, or can punch them in their stomach, rupture their livers, watch them bleed to death, and be assured that you will get off because of extenuating circumstances”.
The Childrens Authority bill, introduced on 1999, allows the powers that be the right to to "investigate complaints or reports of mistreatment of children in their homes" as well as to investigate complaints with respect to children in foster care or community residence (2 Nov. 2000, Sec. 5(f); 15 Nov. 2004, Para. 820).
The Children’s Act Chap. 46:01, addresses child abuse: If any person over the age of eighteen years, who has the custody, charge, or care of any child or young person, wilfully assaults, neglects, abandons, or exposes the child to such, that person is liable to a fine of ten thousand dollars, alternatively or in addition to imprisonment for two years. On summary conviction, a fine of five thousand dollars is charged, alternatively, or in addition to imprisonment for six months.
Forthe purpose of the Children’s Act a parent or other person legally liable to provide care for a child or young person shall be deemed to have neglected him in a manner likely to cause injury to his health if he, or she, fails to provide adequate food, clothing, medical aid, or lodging for the child or young person. (Trinidad and Tobago 15 Nov. 2004, Para. 819)
Section 4 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act states that sexual assault is an indictable offence and is defined as sexual intercourse without consent, where the consent was obtained via threat, where impersonation was used or through the unlawful detainment of the victim.
Othersuch acts which would constitute sexual abuse of a minor are:– Grievous sexual assault (Trinidad and Tobago 25 Sept. 2000, Sec. 5); – Sexual intercourse with a female under 14 (. 11 Nov. 1986, Sec. 6); – Sexual intercourse with a female between 14 and 16 (Sec. 7); – Sexual intercourse with a male under 16 (Sec. 8);
– Incest (Sec. 9); – Sexual intercourse with an adopted minor, foster child or dependant (Sec. 10); – Sexual intercourse with an employed minor (Sec. 11); – Buggery (Sec. 13); – Indecent assault (Sec. 15); – Serious indecency (Sec. 16); – abduction of a female (Sec. 20; Interpol n.d.)
TheUN Committee on the Rights of the Child, states that “although parents are not expressly prohibited by law from administering corporal punishment at home, the Children (Amendment) Act, No. 68 of 2000 has set out guiding principles for parents to observe in respect of this issue“.
Theseguidelines include the lack of humiliating or inhumane punishments and the responsibility to guide the child without the use of physical or emotional abuse and neglect.
The Family Court This organization has jurisdiction over child protection matters including the abuse and neglect of the children. It was launched in May 2004 within the High Court and employs judges and Magistrates with training in Family Law. This division also seeks to provide counselling as well as placement services to children subjected to sexual abuse and has has a formal foster care system.
Organizationssuch as Amica Home, Joshua Boys Home and the ELC-Mary Care Centre are also meant to provide housing, education, counseling and care to children who have suffered from abuse, neglect or abandonment.