THE FORGOTTEN PARTNER
The Child Care and Protection Act mandates that reports be made in all instances where there is evidence or suspicion of underage sexual activity. Because of the mandatory reporting requirement, the hospital files a report to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) whenever anyone under the age of 18 years comes for ante natal care.
The person responsible for the pregnancy often leaves the community for an extended period in order to avoid detection if and when representatives of CISOCA visit to investigate the report they have received.
As members of the Medical Social Work Department at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, we have become increasingly concerned about the impact that this policy seems to be having on intimate relationships especially among those who are only approaching adulthood. We are convinced that an unintended consequence of the policy of mandatory reporting is the exclusion of the partners of these teenage mothers. Their fear of prosecution keeps them from participating in the pregnancy, delivery and early (and sometimes later) years of their child’s life. At the same time, there is a lot of negative commentary about the absence of fathers from family life.
Therefore, it is important to take into account this policy and amend it to suit the needs of newly teenage parents who are of course, are in genuine intimate relationship with the will to take on their responsibilities as parents.