Midwives are facing a serious conflict when it comes to treating youths under the age of 18, who don’t want their parents to know they are sexually active.
Secretary of the TT Association of Midwives (TTAM) Marcia Rollock says while TT has a problem with teenage pregnancies, midwives cannot adequately provide sexual and reproductive health information and services to girls under 18, without parental consent.
“When we get adolescents and teenagers coming to us to access services, what do we do as midwives? How do we provide care to these needy children? How do we provide care and not break the law? Do we provide this care and information they seek or do we tell them to go get their parents and risk losing them, (thus) making them vulnerable to STDs,” Rollock asked.
“We look forward to working with the Ministry of Planning and the Office of the Attorney General to amend our laws as it governs our adolescent population when it comes to the human right to access sexual and reproductive health information and services.” Rollock was speaking at the launch Tuesday of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 2017 State of the World Population report at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
The report includes “Ten Actions For A More Equal World”, the second of which is titled Tear Down Barriers. The UNFPA says these barriers may range from discriminatory laws to norms and service gaps which prevent adolescent girls and young women from accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services.
Noting that the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women is linked with inequality in all spheres of life worldwide, Rollock highlighted the UNFPA’s second recommended action.
“We emphasise the call to “tear down barriers” that prevent adolescent girls and young women from accessing sexual reproductive health information and service.” Adding to what Rollock said was Executive Director of the Family Planning Association of TT (FPA) Dona Da Costa Martinez. In addition to amending existing laws, Martinez said the country should look at what exists in common law, as TT is part of the Commonwealth.
“British law allows for the Gillick competency model to be applied. This gives health care providers the ability to assess the level of understanding of young people, in terms of what their needs are. If they find the young people competent enough to make a decision about their sexual activity and their needs, (Gillick) allows the health care provider to provide them with the services that they request, even if the young person falls under the age of consent - 18 years.”
Martinez said as civil society organisations, the FPA, TTAM and others “need to work with the Ministry of Health to see to what extent we can apply that law to TT, as it has already been established.” The FPA head also queried the interpretation of local laws governing mandatory reporting of sexually active adolescents.