In the absence of disaggregated national statistics, a senior officer at the Child Care Board (CCB) is warning Barbadians not to bury their heads in the sand about the growing prevalence of child prostitution on the island.
“These stats are actually buried in the whole child abuse statistics and it is only on investigation that you realize that this can be happening, but the facts are not really out there,” the CCB’s Roxanne Sanderson-Weekes cautioned during a panel discussion held here on Thursday night under the theme Child Prostitution – the Solution.
“It is something that we should look at, even if we at least separate the suspected cases,” she also suggested to the gathering at the Wesleyan Holiness Church at Cave Hill, while adding that the recent economic downturn and increased poverty were key factors contributing to the worrying scourge.
Sanderson-Weekes’ position received strong support from Acting Director of the Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) Anderson Langdan, who made reference to the US State Department’s 2013 Trafficking of Persons report in which Barbados was placed on the tier 2 watch list.
The report stated that “the prostitution of children is known to exist in Barbados, including Barbadian and immigrant children engaging in transactional sex with older men”.
“One of the reasons that Barbados remains at tier 2 is because legislation currently does not separate the various forms of child labour in which child prostitution is classified as one of the more dangerous classifications. This is one of the reasons that Barbados is criticized because it has not changed its regulation to recognize this distinction,” Langdon said, while calling for corrective action to be taken.
Back in 2013 Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite had expressed concern about the accuracy the US report.
Brathwaite, who was at the time addressing Soroptimist International of Jamestown’s Annual General Meeting, said he had no knowledge of such activities taking place on the island, but hastened to add that if such was the case, then the situation needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“It is not to my knowledge as Attorney General or as Minister of Home Affairs that indeed we have a situation where underage boys and girls are engaging in sexual activity for money or other gains. I saw it [the accusation] in last year’s report and I asked the question then, ‘what is the source of the information that leaves the US to place it in their report?’ I did not get a satisfactory answer then, and there it is again in this year’s report,” Brathwaite had stated at the time.