A local corporate executive has blasted men who father multiple children and refuse to support them, describing them as “enemies of the State” who should be “locked up” or “compulsorily sterilised”.
According to Robin Levy, group CEO of the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League, hauling such men before the courts is not the answer.
“I think that some of these gentlemen who are going around having 10, 12, 15 children, not taking care of any of them are enemies of the State. They are contributing to intergenerational poverty, they are contributing to situations which will lead to sexual abuse and many other things and, instead of the court simply saying they should pay some small amount of money to support one or two of the children, they should be locked up or compulsorily sterilised,” an exasperated Levy stated Wednesday following an address to the Rotary Club of Downtown Kingston by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, QC.
The DPP, in a presentation titled ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Myth or Reality in this Age of Child Abuse’ which stirred Rotarians, had said the influx of child sex abuse cases was, in many instances, linked to situations in which mothers are left to fend for multiple children whose fathers are nowhere to be found.
“What we don’t see is when you have the relationships breaking down and you have a lot of frustration in these mothers because the fathers have disappeared, so they enter into other relationships. We have seen it in the files where everybody is sleeping in the same bed…” the seasoned prosecutor said.
“What the police and we, as prosecutors, see [are] situations where you have mothers pimping out their girls. They are not working and they will pimp out the child either to the stepfathers or [to] other men in the community,” she noted.
The DPP said in order to break the cycle there was need for sustained public education programmes aimed at changing mindsets.
“We need to have our young ladies know that the way to break the generational curse is to make sure that you are educated and or have a skill that you can earn,” she said while calling for a resurrection in some form of the ‘Two is Better Than Too Many’ family planning campaign conducted in the 1970s by the National Family Planning Board.
This, she said, was “so that a lot of persons in our society do not just look and subscribe to the theory of mendicancy — that you have three, four, five children by the time you are 25 and you are just looking for a handout or looking for babyfather number (six) and when that babyfather comes into the home, because all of them are sleeping on one bed, he is going to prey on the child coming up”.
“We have to talk about these things, we have to sustain these conversations, and we have to be prepared to point out, in a lot of these communities, that it is wrong. We have to stand up and be counted,” she stated.
Asked what should be done about fathers who do not stand by their children, she said, “Let me be quite clear, I am a single mother and my daughter’s father was always involved from day one, but a lot of the whole issue of how many children a woman is going to have, the decision rests with the woman.
“Part of the public education programme has to align in a lot of the minds of our women the fact that you can control your destiny when it comes to the number of children you are going to have. There has to be an understanding that if you don’t work, and you don’t have a skill, and you are going to have four, five children, you are automatically putting your children at a great disadvantage,” she continued.
“I agree that we need to find a way, through public education, that seems to be the only way, and we have to start in the schools… the power over your bodies and the whole issue of having the number of children that you can manage should rest with you,” she added.
A summary of the custody and maintenance cases filed in the Family Division of the parish courts between 2017 and 2019 obtained by the Jamaica Observer showed that in 2017, a total of 2,795 custody cases were filed; 2,814 in 2018; and 2,814 in 2019.
Over the same period, 7,172 maintenance cases were filed in 2017; 8,003 in 2018; and 7,450 in 2019. According to the data, an annual average of 4,775 fathers are brought to book for not paying their share of child support. That number includes summonses for repeat offences and enforcements. The data also showed that most of the fathers being brought before the courts were under 40 years old.
The Two is Better Than Too Many campaign was credited for reducing the birth rate at a time when Jamaica’s total fertility rate was in excess of six children per woman. By 1975, a few years after the campaign began, the rate dropped to 4.5.