THERE were 3,777 teenage pregnancies in TT between 2014 and 2018. These “startling statistics” were presented yesterday by Senator Paul Richards, chairman of the Social Services and Public Administration Joint Select Committee (JSC), during a public hearing at Tower D of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.
Of the pregnancies within this five-year period, 31 were in 2014, 745 in 2015, 850 in 2016, 575 in 2017 and 377 in 2018.
Richards said there were 570 and 2,970 pregnancies in the 13-16 and 17-19 age groups respectively. This averaged to 755 pregnancies per year and 65 pregnancies per month. There were 47 cases of teenage pregnancies in secondary schools but none in primary schools.
Equally disturbing were the statistics about the fathers involved. From 2014 to 2018, 1,395 fathers were between the ages of 20 and 30. There were 146 fathers between 31 and 40, and 24 between 41 and 50.
“Who are these fathers?” Tunapuna MP Esmond Forde asked. “What are their backgrounds? Are they the maxi taxi touts? Are they the PH and H taxi drivers?”
Toco/Sangre Grande MP Glenda Jennings-Smith said, “We have lot of young girls trapped in their homes. They are trapped by their mothers and by the perpetrators.”
As a police officer, Jennings-Smith said she encountered many “serious and sad cases” where young girls “feel it’s okay to have sex with anybody.”
She asked how many alleged perpetrators in the 570 cases went to court and what happened to the cases which never made it to court.
Children’s Authority director Safiya Noel said the authority was concerned “where the fathers are adults.”
In these cases, Noel explained they would be guilty of sexual abuse under the law. They “will be the targets of the police for criminal investigation.”
When the father is an adult, Noel said the authority matter was reported “like clockwork” to the Police Service’s Child Protection Unit. In the authority’s eyes, she said, “Once you are under 18, you cannot give consent.”
But Noel admitted there was little information about the fathers because teenage mothers were tightlipped in many cases.
She said many of the fathers were from the same community as the mothers and many from the same homes as the victims. She explained that was why the authority was undertaking outreach programmes throughout TT to sensitise people about teenage pregnancy. The authority can help the fathers if they are teenagers, and also helps teenage mothers and their unborn babies, she said. Guidance officer Darlene Smith said the parents of teenage boys were embarrassed to learn their sons “impregnated a young female.”
Smith said the Education Ministry tried to encourage them to stay in school and care for their infants.
Social Development Ministry permanent secretary Jacinta Bailey-Sobers said information from the Health Ministry showed 26 per cent of students between 11 and 18 were sexually active.
Responding to a question from Richards, Bailey-Sobers admitted the problem of teenage pregnancy might be underestimated.