'Don't start so young'
Ramsammy warns of cervical cancer risk
Stabroek News
June 8, 2004

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The silent protest by rights groups and other concerned citizens to condemn Reeaz Khan's affair with a 13-year-old girl and seek to have the age of consent raised, continued yesterday.

And in a press release yesterday, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy cautioned that women who engage in sexual activity at such a tender age stand the risk of being affected by cervical cancer.

"Data has shown that [early] engagement in sexual activities is also a risk factor to cervical cancer," the minister is quoted by the Government Information Agency (GINA) as stating. The release noted that cervical cancer affects approximately 500,000 women annually and is caused by the Human Papillomavirus.

According to the release, the minister is urging Guyanese to use this opportunity to lobby for a change in the age of consent and advised that the problem be approached from a medical and scientific perspective rather than a moral or cultural one.

And the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security is actively pursuing measures to have the age of consent in Guyana elevated, GINA reported yesterday.

The GINA release said Minister Bibi Shadick has indicated that corresponding legislation is currently being drafted and is to be taken before the National Assembly soon. The minister, however, pointed out that there are a few challenges that are likely to be encountered including opposition from some interest groups to have the age of consent raised from 13 to 16 years.

According to GINA, the minister said that this legislation has been in the making for about two years now and the government's intention is to create mechanisms for the protection of the nation's children.

President Bharrat Jagdeo told the Trinidad Express over the weekend that his government would raise the age of consent.

Meanwhile, the West Berbice Chamber of Commerce (WBCC), in a press statement, said it supports the government's willingness to amend the law governing the age of consent since it considers sexual activity at the age of 13 to be highly immoral.

According to the statement, the WBCC called on non-governmental organisations and political parties to support the government by advocating for the current law to be amended.