At the start of 2017 we brought you the traditional story of the first born child for the New Year which turned out to be for a minor. The young mother is sixteen years old and whilst she is at the age to give sexual consent, in the eyes of the law she is still considered a minor. Attorney Lisa Shoman has been known to advocate for women’s rights and can constantly be seen on social media debating comments made surrounding this issue. As she appeared on The Morning Show, she addressed the matter of the minor, the whereabouts of the father and the circumstances that led to her facing motherhood at a young age as well as sex education.
“The first child in this year was born to a minor and at some point people have to be questioning about how that occurred, where is the person who caused that and how can we move ahead so as to ensure that this doesn’t happen to other minors. Do you remember when there was this gender policy and people were freaking out about it ? Part of the issue was that that was actually sex education. Until and unless we accept that it’s all our responsibility to make sure that our young people are educated about sex and we stop allowing certain sectors of civil society to block children’s access to sex education nothing is going to change. Until and unless we start demanding harsher penalties that are actually applied meaning you actually have to do the work to investigate, to convict and then to sentence; when people jump up and down and holler that they want higher sentences for XYZ I always say to them that we have to convict these people first and our conviction rate is exceedingly poor. I’m not even going to call a figure because it probably would be mythical, I would be pulling that figure out of my head but it is exceedingly low.”
As it relates to sex education, there are schools that decide what they will and will not teach on the subject. Attorney Shoman says that there needs to be more action by the education sector and a definitive stance by Church-run schools on whether they will operate according to state regulations upon accepting state funding.
“I think I have a fundamental issue because of who I am with the forced teaching of religion. I don’t think anybody should be obliged to learn any particular religion especially where the state is funding or partially funding our schools, that is discrimination. I think you can easily have another activity for those people who don’t want to be taught that but I don’t have a problem with any particular faith wanting to teach their religion that is fine I don’t have an issue with that. Where I draw the line is on the issue of where any denomination is allowed to discriminate. So for instance if you are running a Christian school and you tell the child of another faith let’s say for arguments sake they are Sikh you can’t come in here with a turban and as we’ve seen in France you can’t wear the Hijab I would have a problem with that because it is state school and state schools are not allowed to discriminate in fact we have an entire decision about that; the Maria Roches case where a school that was receiving state funding could not discriminate against a teacher in a certain way according to their moral precepts so as to disqualify that teacher to teach because her personal situation was other than what they would have wanted. That actually extends not only to teachers but also to students and to everyone else in the school system; so that is the issue that I have. I think we have to be a lot more proactive as a Ministry of Education to understand but I think also religious schools need to make decisions as to whether you are going to accept state funds and if you do then you have to understand what that means. There are several schools who do not accept state funds because they want things done a certain way.”
“And if you want to send your child to that school you send him to that school and they have their rules.”
“However they are still not allowed to discriminate under the constitution so everything has a balance, it is always a balance and I’m always going to be one of these people that want a medium ground. Yes.”
The differences on this issue of sex education in the classrooms were highlighted over a year ago when the National Gender Policy Draft was launched.