Legislation being drafted to raise age of consent
--- Minister Shadick
Guyana Chronicle
June 9, 2004

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GINA - The Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security is actively pursuing measures to have the age of consent in Guyana raised.

Minister within that Ministry, Ms Bibi Shadick, told the Government Information Agency on Monday, "The Ministry is actively pursuing legislation to raise the age of consent".

According to the Minister, the legislation is currently being drafted and will be tabled in the National Assembly soon.

She noted that a few hurdles have been encountered and the Ministry is addressing these. One of the challenges, the Minister said, is the opposition by some interest groups to the rise in age of consent from 13 years to 16 years.

Ms Shadick explained that this policy has been in the making for years now and two years ago she reaffirmed Government's commitment to have the age of consent raised.

She also disclosed that Government is seeking to put measures in place to protect children from abusive parents.

Over the weekend, President Bharrat Jagdeo also renewed Government's commitment to raising the age of consent.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has cautioned that age 13 is not an appropriate age for any child to be engaged in sexual activities.

He noted that a medical and scientific approach should be taken, instead of a cultural and moral position.

"From a Ministry of Health perspective, medical and scientific arguments should take precedence over cultural values," stressed Minister Ramsammy.

Data have shown that early engagement in sexual activities is also a risk factor to cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer begins in the cervix, the part of the uterus or womb that opens to the vagina. Worldwide, cervical cancer affects approximately 500,000 women each year. The cancer is caused by a virus, the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

He noted that now is an opportune time for Guyanese to lobby for a change in the age of consent and reiterated that people should not look at the problem from a cultural or moral perspective but from a scientific point of view.