The Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) has raised concern that teenage girls are having transactional and intergenerational sex, putting them at risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Executive Director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland highlighted the issue at a women’s health conference held at the 3W’s Oval at the University of the West Indies on the weekend.
She referred to a 2013 national study, the Transactional and Intergenerational Sex Survey, conducted by Drakes, Perks et al, which found that 29 per cent of 15 to 19 year-old sexually experienced girls had intergenerational sex, which is sex with men ten or more years older.
Bynoe-Sutherland said those girls who admitted to receiving money or gifts from their partners were three times more likely to have had intergenerational sex.
“This kind of transactional sex is considered a risk factor for HIV/STI. It is especially worrying as we know the median age for HIV diagnosis is 41 for men and 35 for women.
“Many women do not know their HIV or STI status though 36 per cent of them in a national KABP study said they had vaginal sex before 16. The average age of sexual debut in Barbados is 13,” she stated.
Regarding boys, 50 per cent reported having had vaginal sex before they were 16.
“As boys are less likely to have intergenerational sex, they are likely to have sex with girls who may be having intergenerational sex and whose HIV or STI status is unknown,” she said.
The BFPA head said her organization was concerned about the limited access of young people to comprehensive sexual education and services, adding that “countries with progressive sexual education policies have the lowest rates of teen pregnancies, terminations and STIs among youth”.
Bynoe-Sutherland also pointed to the high number of reported cases of child abuse, warning it was more prevalent among girls than boys.
According to her, during the period 2008–2013, 57.6 per cent of all cases involved females, with the highest number of cases, 648, reported in 2009.
There were 836 reported cases of child sexual abuse between 2008 and 2013 affecting 882 children.
The majority of perpetrators were known to the children, she said, with the most common perpetrator identified by girls were boyfriends, followed by their fathers, stepfathers and family friends.
“There is, however, a notable increase of mothers being charged as perpetrators for showing child porn or exposing a child to sexual acts . . . Much sexual abuse is unreported because families do not wish to face embarrassment of bringing an adult male before authorities, or frankly, some families are benefitting financially from turning a blind eye to relationships between young girls and older men,” Bynoe-Sutherland said.