CMC – Education Minister Dr. Tim Gopeesingh said many men were getting away with statutory rape after indicating that more than 2, 500 teenage pregnancies are reported annually in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Gopeesingh, speaking in the Senate, said that most of the teenagers had become pregnant for fathers who were between the ages of 25-40 and that some of the mothers were below the ages of 12.
The Education Minister told legislators research by the Faculty of Medical Science of the University of the West Indies (UWI) showed that by age 19, more than 1,000 young women already had four children.
Dr. Gopeesingh, a gynaecologist with more than 27 years practice, described the situation as “frightening” saying that for every 15 new patients in the ante-natal, 10 were teenagers.
He said the country could not continue to ignore the statutory rape of teenagers adding it was necessary to apprehended the fathers engaged in the practice so as to induce “fear among the perpetrators” that “t could serve as a deterrent to statutory rape.
“It is an issue of socialisation and what these teenagers are looking for. When you question them, even when I was in my own practice…they said they were looking for some degree of love. They felt they were not loved,” he said.
According to figures released on Tuesday, between 2008 and 2012, there were four reported cases of girls attending primary schools who gave birth and Dr. Gopeesingh said between the same period the Ministry of Education received reports of 153 cases of teenage pregnancy.
But the figure could be higher, as The Ministry of Education said the cases were only those reported to its Student Support Services.
Dr. Gopeesingh said there was under-reporting of teenage pregnancies and that many pupils merely dropped out of school and that the authorities were not able to track those pupils.
Dr. Gopeesingh said the Ministry of education was reforming the primary school curriculum and the secondary school curriculum with morals, values and ethics, character development, citizenry development, physical education, visual and performing arts and health and family life education being added to the curriculum.
He said social studies, with some degree of sex education, formed part of the secondary school programme.