President pledges to raise age of consent
June 7, 2004
President Bharrat Jagdeo on Saturday told the Trinidad Express that his government would raise the age of consent.
It was his first comment on the controversy surrounding a 13-year-old and businessman Reeaz Khan who has admitted having sexual relations with the girl and wants to marry her.
The President made the comment while in Trinidad attending an exposition put on by Go-Invest. Jagdeo's administration has been criticised for not acting quicker in raising the age of consent. The issue has been on the government's agenda since 1994.
Meanwhile, the 13-year-old girl whose whereabouts have been unknown since she fled her aunt's home on May 29 may be in Trinidad and Tobago.
Stabroek News was informed yesterday that the child telephoned a relative late last week, who is presently living in Canada, and said she was calling from the twin-island Republic.
Stabroek News understands that this new development has since been reported to law enforcement authorities and a senior police official has assured this newspaper that the tip is being investigated.
The child's mother had last week told this newspaper that her daughter had taken her passport from the house and had expressed the hope that authorities were on the alert because she feared the 13-year-old would be sent out of the country.
Concern about the child's whereabouts has been steadily escalating since she failed to show up last Friday at the High Court for a probation hearing in relation to habeas corpus proceedings filed by her mother, Bibi Shameeza Hamid, earlier last month.
The child had last been seen [in the High Court] on May 20 in the company of Khan and had at that time been released into the joint custody of her mother and maternal aunt by Justice BS Roy who had also ordered that Khan refrain from having any form of contact with the child.
Since then, the child has twice been spirited away from her aunt's home. Khan has since claimed to be unaware of the child's whereabouts.
Last Friday, Justice Roy informed those present during the "open court" session of the hearing, that he is constrained from acting in relation to the alleged breach of his May 20 order since the court is yet to be presented with any application relevant to the alleged breaches.
However, the judge had said that the court is seeking to ensure that it does everything within its power in the best interests of the child, and had indicated that he had spoken directly with Commander of the 'A' Division of the Guyana Police Force, Paul Slowe.
Justice Roy had also allowed representatives of various interest groups who have condemned Khan's sexual relationship with the child and are actively involved in a signature campaign to amend the legislation governing the age of consent in Guyana, to participate in the in-camera session to share their views on the issue.
The age of consent in Guyana is currently 13 years but rights' groups are seeking to have this raised to 16 or 18 years.
Khan and his attorneys did not show up at last Friday's court hearing.
Meanwhile, Hamid and her family members, including the child's grandmother continue to plead for her to return home.
An affidavit from Minister of Human Services, Bibi Shadick, in response to Hamid's affidavit, has been filed and served on Hamid's attorneys with the probation report requested by the court attached.
The matter is scheduled to resume today.