Future of Caribbean Media

Check out these three online Caribbean media sources that have us excited about new ways of telling Caribbean stories!

Antillean Media Group

Brilliant, fresh and socially engaged.  Antillean Media Group has been in town for a long time and remain as relevant, creative and cutting edge as ever.

The New Local 

Describing itself as a celebration of millennial Caribbean voices, this is definitely a space to watch!  So far we’re loving the outlets for creative writing and reflection.

CatchAFyah Blog Network

With over 30 Caribbean feminist and social justice bloggers in its network there’s something at the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network website for everyone who’s passionate about the future of our region.

Leave us a comment and share any fresh Caribbean new media projects we need to know about!

Man caah run a rape joke again?

Earlier this year an AlJazeera news story cited the World Bank’s report on gender and business which revealed that “husbands still hold the power to prevent their wives from working in at least 15 countries, and laws in 79 nations still restrict the kind of work women can do.”

In Jamaica, the 1942 act governing the employment of women states that no woman shall be employed in night work except in limited circumstances which include, inter alia, care of the sick, pharmacy and employment in the hospitality sector. At least since last year, discussions have began about amending the act to align with the reality that many woman already work at night, already work flexible hours, often in precarious employment.

Jamaican culture critic, Carolyn Cooper, pointed out that though the 1942 act is sexist, discriminatory, classist and patronizing toward women, the motivations for amending it have less to do with gender justice and more to do with making women’s labour hyper-exploitable.

During parliamentary debate on the Flexible Work Arrangements Bill Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte drew attention to the fact that considerations for women’s safety at work ought to be factored in, noting, “you know we also have high incidence of rape at nights; we have abduction of children and women.” One of her colleagues, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator AJ Nicholson, interjected with, “What you want flexi-rape?” His comments were met with laughter from the majority-male parliament. When asked to withdraw his sexist, inappropriate rape joke, Senator Nicholson, invoked his patriarchal privilege to make a joke of whatever he felt like, “Man caah run a joke again?

No, Senator.  Man can’t make rape jokes and expect them to go unchallenged.  Most of your colleagues may have laughed with you but not everyone is laughing.  Rape is no joke.  Neither is the exploitation of women’s labour in poorly paid, precarious and potentially dangerous employment.  While women don’t need patronizing laws that restrict the kinds of work they can do, they do need decent working conditions and wages that permit them to take care of their families.  They need governments that take rape and sexual assault seriously. Women (and men) in other Caribbean countries have taken to the streets to hold states accountable for their response to rape.

When elected and selected leaders debate these issues on behalf of women who are 51% of the citizenry they ought to do so in a manner that recognizes women’s humanity and citizenship. Women’s lives are not punch lines.

Petchary’s Blog offers a great overview, analysis and responses.

Check out the Top 10 (hetero)sexist moments in Caribbean politics to see other regional leaders behaving badly.

EDITED TO ADD: It has been reported that AJ Nicholson subsequently sent threatening emails to Malahoo Forte, warning that “the big pay back is coming!

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Getting It Wrong On Rape Or No Sperm, No Rape, Or Why a Two-Year-Old Girl Does Not Need to be Taught Modesty

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After an Indigenous Guyanese woman reported that she was drugged and gang-raped at the hotel where she worked and police had no intention of investigating the rape, women took to the streets in protest and solidarity.

One local newspaper alleges that police are not investigating the rape because the woman admitted to “drinking Red Bull and Hennessey”. It also quoted a police offical as saying, “The woman never said she was raped; she said she had sex with some boyfriend or something like that, and that when he left the room another man come in and he like assault her, bite she up on her body.”

In another case, the family of a partially paralysed woman who was raped in her home have indicated that even though she was taken to the hospital she was neither examined nor treated for sexual assault:

The relatives added that when they checked with the police again yesterday, they were told that “they can’t say she was raped because they have no medical but they can put that she was assaulted.”

And in yet another rape case, a Police Commander is quoted as saying that medical evidence refutes the rape claim of a 30-year-old woman raped and knife point and found naked in a clump of bushes because there was no “sperm” found in her vagina:

G Division Commander Kevin Adonis has reported that medical examinations by doctors have failed to support the claim by a Devonshire Castle woman that she was raped during a brutal attack.
According to the Commander, “no sperm” was found in the victim, but he said that the woman has received treatment for bruises she sustained at the hands of her attacker.

Feminist activist, Sherlina Nageer, responded by clarifying what should be obvious but clearly was not:

Sperm does not need to be found on a victim for a rape claim to be valid. Rapists can use condoms to contain their bodily fluids; rape can be inflicted using objects which would not leave sperm, etc. These basic facts about rape should be common knowledge; the fact that Commander Adonis, a senior officer in the Guyana Police Force exhibits such ignorance is extremely disturbing.

These three recent cases not only suggest a high prevalence of sexual violence against women but demonstrate the lack of state investment in an appropriate response to rape. Health care and justice systems are not just failing women but neither operate nor exist as systems. Women who are raped end up turning to women’s organisations, noted women’s advocates or to the media in search of some sort of justice. Media are often exploitative and traffic in gendered stereotypes and norms which support and legitimize rape.

Gross misunderstandings about just what rape is and how rapists select their victims, sexist expectations that responsibility to prevent rape lies with women who should discipline their bodies and movements as prevention measures detract attention from the fact that in effect “rape of the most vulnerable has been decriminalised“.

Research from the UK has demonstrated that rape of the most vulnerable women has been effectively decriminalised where 2 of every 3 rape allegations are not pursued beyond the investigation stage. In other words two thirds of rape allegations do not make it to trial. Researcher Betsy Stanko identifies the following attributes which result in the likelihood that a reported rape will not make it to trial:

1) The victim has a history of mental illness
2) The victim is or was in a relationship with her attacker
3) The victim has a learning disability
4) The victim consumed drugs or alcohol prior to the attack

She notes that “80 per cent of people reporting rape to the Metropolitan Police are considered vulnerable to sexual attack for one of a range of reasons – including being under 18, having mental health issues or learning disabilities, having drunk alcohol or taken drugs prior to the attack and being in an intimate relationship with the suspect.”

She concludes that rather that seeing these women and girls as unreliable witnesses, police investigators need to take a person’s vulnerability as evidence that they are more likely to be raped and investigate whether that vulnerability was exploited by the suspect.

In parts of the Caribbean where there is a lack of access to healthcare and forensic facilities due to state racism, ineffective and sexist justice systems and where women may be expected to consume alcohol as part of their jobs, these too must be viewed as factors which make women more vulnerable to rape and as vulnerabilities that rapists exploit.

Rapists also exploit the sexist ideologies which persist in the region. Such sexist ideologies are frequently presented in our newspapers. For example, A young Barbadian columnist wrote about teaching his two-year-old daughter about “modesty and decency”, noting that “My heart burned and my eyes filled with tears as I saw the pictures and videos on Facebook of girls and women exposing their bodies and sexually gyrating on strangers in the name of fun, revelry and freedom. I am still lost for words and can’t find one single person to convince me that this is acceptable behaviour.” He then compared the thousands of women who participate in this year’s Crop Over festival to “prostitutes”. Ironically, believing that a two-year-old needs to be taught “modesty” suggests a sexualization of infant girls’ bodies. It suggests that it were possible for a two-year-old to even be “immodest”. We need to push back against the sexualization of girls’ bodies and recognise that this supports sexual violence against them.

A two-year-old girl does not need to be taught to discipline and police her own body. Women don’t need an anti-rape nail polish. (Let the rapists wear the anti-rape nail polish so we can recognise them!) Our bodily integrity needs to be respected, whether we are two years old or ninety-two years old. Whether we work work in a bar or the boardroom. Whether or not we fight back with our fists or are too scared or intoxicated to do so. Whether or not we’ve had sex with you in the past. Or were wearing a short skirt. Or out alone at night.

And when our bodily integrity is violated the healthcare systems, legal systems and victim support systems need to be working at optimum. For women everywhere. On the coast and in the interior. For those who turn up naked at police stations and those who arrive months after the attack.

What’s the excuse really?

Why are police officers sharing sensitive information with the media and in such callous and ignorant ways? Why are they not investigating rape when it is reported? Why are rape survivors unable to access the required healthcare? Why is sexism given space in our national newspapers?

Do we really care so little for women?

image source: Red Thread Guyana: Crossroads Women’s Resource Centre

Pride Mubarak

Guest post by Lina Free

So does Ramadan mean no sex for the whole month? Hello- I’m not that kind of Muslim! Ha ha, I just troubling u girl; I kno the thing- my father was Muslim. Eh heh? Yes, Salahuddin was his name. But is only me outta my brothers and sisters get that name. How come? He was always drunk, never had time for us. But I was the last chile; my mother said he felt sorry by then. Salahuddin sounded just like my grandfather Shaheed. Another ‘fullaman’ yes, but that didn’t stop him from drinking and womanizing. When my grandmother ‘ran off’ her head after he got another woman pregnant the same time as she and had to be committed to the Berbice mad house after giving birth to my father- the last child of eight- Shaheed amended his ways. But by then it was too late, the damage already done. Decades afterwards, when I sat behind him in the masjid, watching him prostrate himself in prayer, all I could think about was why I had to sit behind and not beside him. Stop asking all those questions I was scolded. Just keep quiet and do as you are told. Continue reading

Mama’s Day Poetry Playlist

If mothering is the kind of work that makes all other kinds of work possible why are mothers and grandmothers turning to the media as a last resort to plead for jobs and housing for themselves and their families? Why have we not figured out a way to nourish and support mothers in the work that they do? Why is motherhood often impoverishing? Why do women as group earn less than men as a group (around 18% less in Barbados) and why is motherhood part of the answer? Why have we not figured out work-life balance? And learnt a way to honour the multiple journeys to motherhood? That post-24, pre-35 (heterosexually) married, middle-class, with medical insurance, making more than the national average, able-bodied, sound-of-mind, mythic ideal of appropriate motherhood is a minority experience in the Caribbean.  Can’t we honour and support all moms to be the best moms that they can be?

Here’s a poetry playlist that addresses motherhood in all it’s complexity.  Happy Mothers’ Day!   Continue reading

Caribbean Leaders are No Angels, They are Politicians with Problems

Vile and Oblivious Politicians Support State Violence Against Children

At least three recent stories in Caribbean media have highlighted the systemic rape of boys and girls in state care and the horror houses known as children’s homes.  Getting raped while literally under the care and protection of the state is a reprehensible violation and denial of bodily autonomy.  Fleeing sexual abuse is what gets many girls in juvenile correctional facilities locked up in the first place. The abuse survivors are criminalized and re-victimized. Far from seeking to prevent sexual assault, reports from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana suggest that such violations are widespread.  Support services for sexual assault survivors are non-existent. Continue reading

Top 10 sexist and heterosexist moments in Caribbean Politics

Contribute to the final list of top 10 sexist & heterosexist moments in Caribbean politics by leaving your suggestions in the comments below.  Here are what i’ve been able to come up with in no particular order. Thanks to all who sent suggestions via facebook and twitter.

1. Trinidad & Tobago: Minister of People and Social Development claims “severe fatigue” after a flight attendant alleges that he touched her breasts when he grabbed her name-tag and threatened to have her fired because she asked him to stow his luggage correctly.  The Prime Minister then fired him.  Before the dust could settle on this one, police were investigating reports that the Minister of tourism had physically assaulted his former partner, causing her to lose consciousness. Continue reading