Monday, August 10, 2009

More young girls have sex

Many of the girls had sex with casual friends and boyfriends, most of whom were about the same age. -- ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

IT IS a sign of the times - More girls aged below 14 are having sex. The police have now tabbed this as a worrying crime issue, and are trying to keep a lid on the problem.

Crime statistics issued on Wednesday for the first half of the year showed that the number of statutory rape involving girls under 14 jumped more than 70 per cent, to 37 cases, compared with 21 in the same period last year.

Consensual sex was often at the heart of the problem. Many of the girls had sex with casual friends and boyfriends, most of whom were about the same age. But when the girls' parents, or in some cases, teachers, found out, they were determined that action be taken, and reported the cases to the police.

When the cases went to court, a variety of punishments was dished out. If the culprits were youngsters, they were fined, sent for reformative training, given probation or even jailed, said Mr Patrick Tan, a lawyer in private practice.

In one case involving a 19-year-old youth and a 12-year-old girl, the youth was fined $8,000. But if older men were involved, more severe sentences were handed down. For instance, one 32-year-old man who had sex with a 12-year-old girl he met through a friend was jailed for seven years and ordered to be caned 18 times.

The girls involved in such cases were not punished, even if they initiated the sex, lawyers said. But they were sometimes counselled or sent to homes.

But beyond landing those involved in trouble with the law, teen sex also caused other problems. Many such trysts led to unwanted pregnancies, abortions and a rise in the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV cases.

Last year, 787 teens caught STIs, more than three times the 238 in 2002. For HIV, the figure rose from one in 2002 to nine in 2007. The total number of teenage abortions last year was 1,289.

On Wednesday, police said the increase in statutory rape offences was linked to wider societal trends, and they were working with various ministries, including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, to come up with programmes to educate youths on the legal and social consequences of underage sex.

In their statement on Wednesday, police called on parents, schools and others to play a role in combating such crimes. 'Care should be taken by families to pay attention to the activities of their younger members, as most of the perpetrators in such cases were known to the victims,' the statement said.

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