National Security Minister, Hermangild Francis, has been clearing the air on his recent assertion that some mothers in Saint Lucia are ‘trafficking’ their children to obtain an income.
The Minister made the ‘trafficking’ comments against the backdrop of reports that a twelve year old girl was three months pregnant after being raped by a ‘trusted’ family friend.
“That was a deliberate statement on my part to sensitize the population as to what is really happening,” Francis told reporters today.
“Persons seem to have decided to keep this thing secret and only when there was a pregnancy there was this hue and cry.”
Francis asserted that the problem is deep seated.
He explained that he wanted to bring the issue out in the open so that it can be discussed with the objective of trying to assist young girls who are vulnerable.
Francis said since his’trafficking’ statement there have been a number of persons who have condemned him, while others have agreed with him.
“But what we have seen is that parents are more willing now to come forward to make reports to the police and the police are inundated with a number of reports right now,” the former Deputy Police Commissioner told reporters.
He disclosed that the authorities are trying to deal with every case as it is reported.
“It now places some pressure on the government to make sure that our social services function properly – the Probation Office, the Police and the Vulnerable Persons Team. I have spoken with the Commissioner and we are definitely going to strengthen the Vulnerable Persons team,” Francis said.
The Minister expressed the view that because of the importance of the nation’s children, the team has to be headed by a very senior Police Officer.
He said the necessary training will be given so that affected children can be counselled and feel comfortable being given the counselling.
Francis also said that anyone with information that a child is being abused can make a report to the police or to the social services.
He called on citizens who have such information to report such matters.
“I am talking about all forms of abuse,” the Minister declared.