Over the years there have been many cases brought before the courts with regards to teenaged schoolgirls being sexually abused and raped by minibus drivers and conductors. Only recently there have been at least two cases in which charges were laid against the perpetrators, one of them in which the victim was twelve years old.
However, The Caribbean Voice is aware of many cases that never made the courts or media. Often times, threats or payoffs or both are used to silence victims and their parents. Occasionally the relationship between perpetrator and victim is allowed to continue by parents who receive a regular ‘fee’ in return.
The vulnerability of young girls as a result of an absent parent in a household is one factor at play. When a child is brought up in a single parent home, there is a great possibility that the parent wouldn’t have the time to devote to the child as the parent may very well be the sole provider. Thus the child will respond to any attention she gets outside of the home.
Also poverty plays an integral part, as perpetrators are able to lure these unsuspecting victims with gifts and even money that they cannot get otherwise. Then there is the even more startling offer of being in a “shine ride” or sitting next to the minibus driver, which often seems appealing to the budding young woman. Often too, the offer of drugs and alcohol helps to eliminate or minimize victim’s inhibitions.
Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that teenaged females need protecting as they aren’t mature enough to recognize the dangers in getting involved in relationships that they clearly aren’t prepared to deal with and that can have dire consequences for them. Parents need to become more involved in their children’s lives outside of the home. They need to monitor their activities, in and out of school and be more vigilant and more observant of the daily routines of their children.
The Guyana Police Force Traffic Department needs to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to develop a campaign aimed at targeting these minibus drivers and conductors, who prey on the unsuspecting young. Severe penalties should be brought on for those who are found guilty of encouraging and engaging in this practice. Also the Code of Conduct for minibus drivers and conductors should include penalties that must include suspension of licences for first offences and taking away of licences for repeat offenders.
Schools also have a role to play. Ongoing drug and alcohol abuse programmes should be taken to every school and offered as part of Family Health and Life Curriculum. And teachers should spend time to connect with their students in a manner that develops trust so the students can open up with respect to any and everything, especially when something is bothering them or affecting them.