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Thomas Parish Community: Source of child sex trafficking?

In St. Thomas, Jamaica, data has proven that many parents are selling their children for sexual exploitation in exchange for monetary compensation. They believe that if as long as the girl is consenting, even if under sixteen, she can decide whether or not she wants to engage in sexual activities without getting the police involved. However, under the Child Care and Protection Act, which was passed in Jamaica in 2003, children under the age of sixteen cannot give permission for sexual activities from others.  The act also protects children against child abuse and neglect, as well as states that the child’s views are only to be taken into account when they are of the sufficient age to make logical decisions for themselves.  Thus, those who engage in sexual acts with minors will immediately be sent to prison for their misconduct.

Sources:

Deon Green, “St Thomas Parents Pimping Their Kids,” Gleaner, March 28, 2014.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140328/lead/lead2.html

Investigating the Worst Forms of Child Labour No. 8http://www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/download.do?type=document&id=2441.

“All Woman.” Jamaica Observer News. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/The-Child-Care-and-Protection-Act_15445389.

“St Thomas parents pimping their kids.” Jamaica Gleaner Lead Stories RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140328/lead/lead2.html

“Crime? What’s that? St Thomas community isolated from scourge.” Jamaica Gleaner Lead Stories RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20101115/lead/lead4.html

Student Researcher: Angelica St. Rose, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

ETHICS ALERT

Saint Thomas Parish is a suburban parish located on the southeastern end of Jamaica in the county of Surrey. To tourists, it is a scenic cornucopia of humming birds and banana squits. The food is authentic, often promising the best jerk chicken and pan-fried grunt of the island. However, Saint Thomas has a serious problem that would undoubtedly be frowned upon by most: child sex trafficking. Since the inception of an organized society, human trafficking, the sexual slavery and forced labor of individuals for commercial gain, has been a problem. In Saint Thomas, police have stated that statistical date has made it clear that many parents have been pimping out their daughters as a source of income. They market their innocence, enthralling potential suitors with the idea of their daughter’s youth and virginity (even if the latter doesn’t necessarily apply for those who have been sold numerous times). Even though there have been some incidents with boys, the market isn’t as profitable for them.

However, if such child abuse has been going on for so long, how come no one has spoken up about it? Surely, if some people just rallied together and told the police about the trafficking, it would significantly decrease in numbers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, most of the community members, especially the influential ones, have not spoken up about the trafficking going on around the town. Most of them cited their reasons for the nondisclosure being that they didn’t feel like it was any of their business. They also added that they didn’t want trouble to come their way for shedding light on a situation that wasn’t of their concern. This is sometimes the mindset that people often hold—if it doesn’t include me, why bother? For a plethora of situations, this is true, but in the case of children being exploited, speaking up is the most important tool for justice.

According to the police, a lot of people hold the jarring idea that as long as girls under the age of sixteen give their consent towards sexual activities, it is therefore okay. However, most of these girls are probably forced to consent by their parents rather than freely making the decision to do so . To insinuate that a sixteen-year-old girl, or girls that are younger, willingly agree to have sex with a much older stranger is both insensitive and incredible.

This is largely why the Child Care and Protection Act was instated and forbids children from giving permission for sexual acts under the age of sixteen. If the legal guardian(s) of the child violates the Act, he or she can receive a minimum sentence of three years in prison. Community members who know about the criminal activity and fail to say anything can also face serious convictions, such as a sentence of six months in a federal prison or a fine of $500,000.

St. Thomas, Jamaica, has a notorious reputation for sexual offences, with a pastor being wanted on three counts of sexual intercourse with a minor under sixteen years old recently. This raises the question of whether St. Thomas is being sufficiently policed by authorities to keep these sex crimes at a minimum. However, in an interesting interview, Felix Drysdale, a St. Thomas resident, claims that there is little to no violence, even after seventy seven years of living in the town. He continued on to assure that a ‘thread of respect’ has lingered between the youngsters and the adults, creating a sense of community and unity. Clement Baptiste, a St. Parish governance parish coordinator of the Social Development Commission agreed, reinforcing that cohesion was a very strong trait of their town.

In spite of data showing a dramatic spike in sex crimes, a plethora of residents claim that the parish is a cornucopia of happiness and whimsicality. So which source should one believe? Should it be taken into consideration that, like most places around the globe, crime is a part of social interconnection; that even though sex crimes occur, it doesn’t affect the overall living quality of the town? The answers to these questions are a complex one, and open to various interpretation and exploration.

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