Women’s rights advocate Marilyn Rice-Bowen is calling for the introduction of a sexual offenders registry here, allowing Barbadians easy access to information on convicted rapists and paedophiles.
Rice-Bowen said a registry was the ideal way to monitor sexual deviants and to protect children.
She spoke to Barbados TODAY this morning in the wake of Saturday’s discovery at a man’s home of five girls between the ages of 14 and 15 who had been reported missing after failing to return home from school the previous day. A sixth girl from the same school was found at a different venue.
The man insisted he was not aware that the girls had been missing and that they had arrived at his home about half an hour before the police arrived there.
During an 11-day span, eight girls, including Kaneisha Taylor, 14, were reported missing. Taylor had fled her home once before and was found then three days later at the home of a St Michael man, who has since been charged with involvement with a minor.
Rice-Bowen expressed outrage at the development and linked the girls’ truancy to sexually deviant behaviour by adults. She explained that a sexual offenders registry would make it easier for convicts to be identified and kept away from children.
“And ensure that these people are not offered any services around schools or working in schools. Once these people’s names are on this list, they have to be kept from around children.
“Some of these people could be working in canteens, they could be watchmen. Once these people have access to the children they could influence them,” she charged.
The outspoken Rice-Bowen stressed that her recommendation was not aimed at shaming persons found guilty of engaging in sexually offensive acts.
Instead, she insisted, her interest was in the protection of children.
“If we are serious about protecting the nation’s children we need to put more stringent measures in place to protect the nation’s children. The register isn’t to shame people, but as a means of protecting children,” the former president of the National Organization of Women emphasized.
The man at whose home the five youngsters were found was taken into custody but was released after questioning.
Meantime, the girls appeared in court yesterday charged with wandering and were remanded to the Government Industrial School (GIS).
Rice-Bowen said she was concerned about the rising number of teenaged girls who go missing, adding that it was “unbelievable” and “unacceptable” that children were getting into “this level of mischief” despite the number of guidance counsellors assigned to secondary schools.
“If these children get together and plan this thing and go to an adult house – and I note with interest that the man said he didn’t know they were missing – really and truly what is going on there that you could accept these young people into your household?
“You condemn the children and say that they should be punished, but they should receive professional counselling as well because there is something going seriously wrong in our society when we have our children running away in packs,” the women’s advocate stated.
Rice-Bowen’s call was supported by prominent pastor and Government Senator David Durant who last week charged that an alarming number of children were being physically and sexually abused and were crying out for help.
Durand told Barbados TODAY he was outraged at the number of girls who had been running away yet the country seemed numb to it because of the frequency.
He also suggested that something sinister was going on.
“We have instances of girls missing for three and four days and everything is hush hush after that. I do not condone the actions of these young girls, but I believe they are being coerced into this thing. Some money is being passed; some thing is being done to get them.
“Why are the perpetrators not hunted down? The girls are charged and sent to GIS but where is the adult, the perpetrator in this thing? Six girls gone up to GIS, but what are we doing to find out who the perpetrator is and let them face the law courts so justice can be done? There had to be some plan, something well thought out. They left home and all knew where they were going,” the Senator said.
Durant wondered whether these girls were not being forced into prostitution or illicit drug trafficking.
“It may not be so, but then it could be so. It leaves you to speculate what is happening in such a situation,” Durant said.