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Antigua & Barbuda seemed to have been caught off guard at the United Nations (UN) this week with assertions that the cultural norm is for men to consider girls available for sex once they are 12 years old or once they begin to menstruate.
Senator Maureen Payne-Hyman, who heard the assertions in person, responded saying, “I have lived in Antigua for 20 odd years and I was not aware that girls at 12 years old are seen as women.”
UN officials raised the point during their review of Antigua & Barbuda at a meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – the body of 18 independent experts, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“I really don’t understand why you’re saying that,” Payne-Hyman said, adding, “Yes, there may be situations where persons have had sex with a person as young as 12 years old and they have been dealt with. We are very harsh about that in our criminal system.”
The review, which took place on Monday, comes as a 29-year-old man in Barbuda has been arrested and charged for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl. The issue of child sexual abuse was also highlighted recently with a case of incest being dealt with in the courts.
In her response to the assertions of UN officials, the senator said, “Yes, there may be some incest but you keep saying a high level. I’m not understanding why you keep saying that.”
At one point, an obviously frustrated Payne-Hyman said, “I don’t know what you expect us to do. Men rape women. You tell them not to do it and they do it.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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