Leaders of the major political parties in Dominica have expressed their opinions on the debate of child sexual abuse that is currently sweeping the nation.
Discussion has been raging in Dominica over the matter when a man was sentenced to eight years behind bars after he was found guilty of sexually abusing three minors.
Some people have called for the review of legislation which guide judges in sentencing perpetrators of crimes against children.
Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit thinks that although a good legislative framework is needed, it won’t necessarily solve the problem, unless society speaks up, while Leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton believes although making amendments to the legislation will not solve the problem, it will send a strong message that protecting children is important.
“I hear people talk about legislation, legislation, it is not going to solve problems,” the Prime Minister said earlier this week. “Yes, you need a good legislative framework but our society has to be more responsible and speak out.”
He stated he is of the view that the legislation need to be revisited so that once the matter is reported, it is taken out of the hands of those who have reported it.
“But the law as it is now, it is a strong piece of legislation,” he noted. “In my respectful view, in some cases it has even gone beyond reasonableness in its content. That, not-withstanding, you still have these cases and an increasing number of them.”
Skerrit also urged parents to stop protecting those who abuse their children.
“Parents should not hide these things, you must not keep it a secret,” he stated, adding that in some cases the matter is reported, investigated, sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), goes before the court, and the main witnesses are not present or refuses to speak and it has to be adjourned.
Linton, who addressed the matter on privately-owned Q95 Radio on Friday, believes that the Bar Association, women’s groups, child rights’ advocates and other interest groups should have a “meeting of the minds” to address the situation.
He said the matter should be taken to Parliament before the end of the month.
“Sit down over one or two days for the next two weeks and decide on amendments that they want to make to the Sexual Offences Act and go to the parliament before the end of this month and pass those amendments into law,” Linton said. “We can do at least that for our children.”
He argued that while a change in legislation is not going to do everything, it will send “out important signals as to how serious we as a nation are under the leadership of the governance of political bodies about protecting our children.”
“It is in my view the least we can do,” Linton stated. “There are other important things to be done as well but let us get this one done. Let us put the legislation.”
He said despite the Prime Minister’s “contentment with the current legislation” some people in Dominica do not share his view.
In recent days sexual crimes against children have been grabbing headlines. Earlier this week 36-year-old Clife Elijah Charles pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with three minors, six, seven and eight years old.
Charles was sentenced to eight years in prison, a matter which has created much controversy in Dominica.