Pastor of the Truth and Grace Fellowship Global and president of the Dominica Evangelical Churches Association (DAEC), Randy Rodney, has weighed in on the controversy over a decision by the police to pursue charges against a teenager for making what they say, is a false report about having been kidnapped.
The police reported last week that 16 year-old Rianna Serrant of Pte. Michel was abducted on Saturday March 9, 2019 by two unknown men while on her way to visit her grandmother. That same morning, her father said during a radio interview, that Rianna informed her family, via a text message, that she had been kidnapped.
The teenager was found at Stockfarm the following day after a resident who had seen her, called the police.
The police have since indicated, after investigating the matter, that Rianna was not kidnapped and her story was false. And while the girl’s family contends that she was raped, Acting Deputy Police Chief, Lincoln Corbette insisted at a news conference on Monday, that the teenager was not raped. He said the police were convinced that the girl had arranged the whole matter and said charges would be brought against her.
Meantime, Pastor Rodney, in a radio interview on Tuesday, said this situation presents an opportunity for the authorities to take a critical look at the age of consent in Dominica which according to law, is 16 years.
He said the police are handling a matter which they are not able to deal with reasonably, outside of what the legislation provides because the child can give sexual consent.
Rodney maintained that a child who is unable to vote or is not mature enough to make the decision as to who to elect to government and any other legal matters at the age of sixteen, should not be given the right to consent to sex.
“I don’t think they should be given the right to consider who should sleep with them because it means you are vacillating the law based on how people’s emotions are. Once you have crossed that line and you decided now that, that child is able to give sexual consent at age sixteen, then you have a different question altogether,” he asserted.
The pastor believes that this is a classic case of an imbalance in the law because, at sixteen, a child is under the jurisdiction of her parents.
“A child who can give sexual consent at sixteen, who by law, does not run her own life because by law, she can’t give consent to be married; she can’t do anything else. Her parents are responsible for her. That’s a classic case of an imbalance in the law,” he said. “The child can give sexual consent but is under her mother’s control or her parents’ control; something is wrong with that from the start which is the exact same thing that some of us echoed and nobody paid attention to us. “
Rodney submits that the question of punishment and counselling are not exclusive. He said if someone has done wrong, they need to face the consequences of their actions and the question of counselling must come up.
“When you decide not to punish people or give them a certain level of correction or discipline for violating principles and laws, what you do is, you’re building a society of lawbreakers,” he stated.
People will think that they can break the law, he said, because someone else got away with the same offence, so they should be able to get away with it as well.
“We have to be careful that whatever we do, has to be from the principled perspective and not from the ‘vie ki vie’ [without proper basis] perspective as we now see in dealing with this child,” he cautioned.
Pastor Rodney advised the parents that they should walk circumspectly as far as the matter is concerned. He explained that this generation of children is smarter and cautions the parents to take wise counsel and refrain from the media publicity. He recommends that the child be taken to a professional counsellor where personal conversations should take place.
“Stop the interface with the public because your child business must not be in the public. Deal with your child as best as you can and forget everybody else. If the police decide to do that, then you deal with it from a legal perspective,” he suggested.
“Going on the radio making statements about your child whether you think you’re defending them or not is not good. Some things will come back and slap you,” Rodney warned. “It is not going to be good for you or good for the child. Preserve that child who has already made some blunders that need to be corrected, and that child needs to be brought back to walk in the right place.”