Boys at risk - Hanna wants tougher sanction for men who abuse boys
Lisa Hanna, St Ann South East Member of Parliament, yesterday made an impassioned plea for Jamaica's legislature to confront the discrepancy in law that prescribes a lesser punishment for a man who buggers a boy as against a man who rapes a girl. She charged that for years lawmakers have been skirting around the issue.
She raised concern about the issue, pointing to two pieces of legislation that she said "give our little boys a hard time".
Hanna was making her contribution to debate on the Child Diversion Act, which involves the implementation of measures that more appropriately address the needs of children suspected or accused of committing criminal offences.
The former minister of youth pointed to the Offences Against the Person Act, a piece of legislation enacted in the 1860s, arguing that under this statute, "A boy cannot be raped in this country because of the way we define sexual intercourse [being] vaginal penetration."
According to the opposition lawmaker, when she held the portfolio of youth under the previous administration and had jurisdiction over the Child Development Agency, she came into contact with young boys who were buggered.
She contended that the fine for someone who rapes a boy is 10 years while under the Sexual Offences Act of 2009, the court can impose a 15-year minimum sentence on a man who rapes a girl or hand down a life sentence for that offence.
"Minimum is 15 years, and so there is a disparity between how we treat sexual offences on a boy and sexual offences on a girl. It is something that we have run around because for some reason it is an uncomfortable discussion that we have as legislators, but it is a real problem," said Hanna.
"I have seen 11-year-old boys raped. I have seen 12-year-old boys raped by people they trust and they are scarred because they can't talk about it because of the stigma attached.
"Many of them, when they go to the hospital, or the police, they tell them that they can't deal with that. So we have to find a way if we are really going to look at some of these things to look at the discrepancies.
"There is a real and honest conversation that we must have about our boys in this country," she added.
Lawmakers reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act and other related laws have heard submissions from more than 20 groups, last year, and is preparing a report that is to be debated by Parliament.
Many of the groups supported the redefinition of rape to include boys, which evangelical and some Christian groups have said would circumvent the current buggery law.