There is this tacit acceptability in Barbados that the 16-year-old has the same rights to doctor-patient confidentiality as an adult (someone well over 16). After all, the laws of the country say the age for consensual sex is 16 – in the face of the convention that most doctors operate on the basis the legal age of majority is 18. This is the dilemma some of our docs face when they are minded to reason, as a consequence, that children ought not to be given treatment without their parents’ permission until such age.
These conditions of “children’s rights” clearly do not dovetail, and the inconsistency they perpetuate needs to be addressed urgently. Legal consultant and UNICEF Children’s Champion Faith Marshall-Harris could not have made the point any clearer as she spoke last night on Channel 8’s CBC Presents with Rosemary Alleyne. Mark you, the laws of Barbados do not explicitly state that our physicians must never treat minors confidentially, without the knowledge of parents. Nor do they state these doctors can.
And until such time as legal clarity can be brought to bear on this matter, we can only support Marshall-Harris’ continual cry for consonance, and empathise with our doctors, who we believe act within strict codes of ethics and conduct, employing wise discretion founded on strong justification. The Attorney General and his team will not have been unfamiliar with the enigma we have highlighted here, and it is incumbent that they take action in earnest.
For, we will accept no solace from the often cited dramatizations of Henry Glapthorne and Charles Dickens that indeed the law can be an ass.
But Marshall-Harris’ raised concerns on CBC Presents went beyond the opaque legal age of consent. She grieved for children deprived of natural childhood – as the older among us have been accustomed to.
Let us be brutally frank. The Caribbean – Barbados not exempted – boasts the lowest ages of early sexual initiation in the world. And, as Marshall-Harris has rightly stated – a priori and by continuous observation – this international reckoning has not come by accident. Caribbean adults openly think sex, talk sex, sing sex, play sex, dance sex – even have sex – before the very eyes of our children day in, day out. Wukking up, simulation of the sex act, is second nature to many of our young women, including mothers, and it is plain before the whole world on Kadooment Day especially.
Our Crop-Over party music, regrettably for too great a part, puts rhythm to decadence. Like Marshall-Harris, we do not condemn Crop-Over. Only the people who behave incorrigibly at the festival, setting an unsavoury example for the nation’s children. But the misconduct is not only in the streets.
At home, some parents sit and watch blue movies, their tender offspring flanking them like glued and gluttonous sidekicks – a case of conspired curiosity killing the kid. Then we wonder how the yute get so – or pretend to!
We accept that parenting is not always easy, but by your degree of effort you will either gain from or pay heavily for what you help your children to be. Solomon’s wise counsel still rings relevant:
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:16)
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