Everything old is new again Editorial
Stabroek News
March 27, 2004

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"Everything old is new again, everything under the sun," Stephen Duffy and Steven Page sing in their song. Based loosely on the principle: "La plus ca change, la plus c'est la meme chose." ("The more things change, the more they remain the same"), these words remind us that perhaps apart from advances in technology and medicine there is very little that is new. The challenges and dangers that our foreparents faced are greater now, but are they that much different?

A horrible story which circulated in the early 1970s, was that of a young girl who had gone missing. It later emerged that the girl had been abducted by a friend of her family's. This friend, an older man who she knew, had picked her up in his car near the library telling her that her parents had instructed him to do this.

As the story went, the man had given the girl a spiked soft drink, which caused her to pass out. She was then raped (or killed or both, depending on who was telling the story). Not all of the story was fiction, it did occur. But it was probably embellished by some parents and guardians who used it to keep their girl children on the straight and narrow. It drove home the tenets: 'Never talk to strangers' and 'Never get into anyone's car, even if you know them, unless directly instructed to by your parents.' It might not have worked for everyone, but after that a great many teens and pre-teens of that era scurried straight home from school, library and dance class and treated strange men with great distrust.

Today the 'old family friend' from the 70s, who some parents then had called a 'dirty old man' would be called a paedophile. Over the past few weeks, there have been stories in the media about older and in some cases elderly men, who have made or have been accused of making sexual advances to very young children.

On Wednesday, Juralla Persaud, a paedophile and 61-year-old resident of the East La Penitence Night Shelter, was jailed for a year after he admitted that he had sexually molested a six-year-old girl. While the mere thought of this is disgusting, the fact that it is happening seems to suggest that parents are either not talking to their children or not doing it correctly.

Children today are a bit bolder than they were 30-odd years ago and therefore scare tactics may not work. But surely a six-year-old can be taught not to talk to strangers? Surely a six-year-old could be made to understand that she or he should not accept money from strangers? Yes, the society must protect children, our most precious resource, but parents need to find ways to impart knowledge to their children that will help them protect themselves.

Paedophilia, sexual fondness and activity of adults with children, is described as deviant sexual behaviour and defined in the On-Line Medical Dictionary cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk as one of a variety pf complex psychiatric disorders called paraphilias. According to cancerweb: "Men with paraphilia are usually treated with psychotherapy, anti-depression medications, and medications that alter hormones, particularly testosterone, the male sex hormone."

However, because of the mental health crisis in this country, none of the above will be dispensed in any of the prisons in Guyana which will be chosen to house Juralla Persaud or any of Guyana's paedophiles who happen to be caught. Instead they will serve their negligible prison terms, return to the society and likely continue with their perverse behaviour.

Everything old is new again, if we look at life through our children's eyes. For some children, growing up is stressful and puberty can be a confusing period in a child's life. But it is worse when they lose their innocence at such a young age. Protecting children from paedophiles, who, incidentally, can be either men or women, ought to be a collective effort by parents, child-protection agencies, NGOs and the government. Perhaps the brilliant minds currently rooting for corporal punishment in schools could be moved to accept the challenge of finding a way to do this.