An increasing number of underage girls are being molested by close relatives including their fathers and uncles, Government’s chief legal adviser has charged.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite made this claim last night as he blamed this and a lack of parental guidance for the growing levels of truancy among young girls.
Earlier this week, police spokesman Acting Assistant Superintendent David Welch told Barbados TODAY that ten girls, the majority aged 14 or 15, had been reported missing this year. The police have since issued an appeal seeking the public’s assistance in finding another missing 14-year-old girl.
Addressing a meeting of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) at St Michael School, Brathwaite said the situation at home was forcing these children to seek comfort and security elsewhere.
“Many of these young girls who you see walking the streets and misbehaving, are misbehaving because of the serious issues that they have within their households,” he told the gathering of mostly middle-aged and older men and a spattering of women.
“The serious issues are either lack of parental guidance from the female, because most of them are in single parent households, or they’re being abused by their fathers, their uncles, whoever else, and that’s what they run away from. In most cases they’re the victims.”
Brathwaite spoke to the group on various aspects of law enforcement and the amended Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act recently approved by parliament.
“If you are in a household where everything is being provided for you, you are unlikely to disappear for two or three days and keep on running away from home,” he added.
The minister said the men who preyed on the juveniles often got away with it because the victims were afraid to speak out or family members refused to press charges.
This, he said, presented law enforcement officials with a challenge to bring charges against the perpetrators.
“In many cases the girls are reluctant to provide information. In some cases the family close ranks and decide that it is better for them to save shame.”
He condemned this practice, adding that the victims were often left “with all kinds of scars” that could last a lifetime.
“Our young girls, and young boys – because young boys are also being molested – must be allowed to grow up and enjoy the things that we as children enjoyed,” he insisted.