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

No Laughing Matter: Stories of rape and sexual assault in Caribbean media this week

Laughing at boys who are raped

The Jamaica Observer recently subjected readers to the most crass and reprehensible of cartoons which pokes fun at the rape of boys in institutionalized care. Yes, they invited readers to laugh at the fact that boys were being raped.  A UN study of nine Caribbean countries found that 32% of boys described their first sexual experience as forced or somewhat forced.  Men and boys in institutionalized settings such as prisons face high rates of sexual assault.  These violations are often met with laughter or are seen as adequate punishment for the transgressions that land men in prison.  Never mind that prisons are filled with young, poor men with little formal education. Continue reading

Healing Through Words: Entry #2

The decision to disclose one’s status as a victim or survivor of sexual assault is to make oneself extremely vulnerable. When a friend asked, “Are you sure you didn’t just do something you regret?” I did not react to her emotionally. Instead I heard myself validating my feelings by offering an explanation of why I felt something terrible had happened. Later, after our phone call ended, it slowly started to hit me. Her words gave voice to my fears and the hesitation that ultimately lead to the decision not to report the incident to the police. I feared sitting in a police station across from a police officer who would force me to repeat the details of that horrible night. He or she would write my statement down, put it in a file and start asking questions like my ob/gyn and (former?) friend. Having someone judge me and asking me questions that would indicate some level of blame kept me afraid to talk to anyone with the exception of trusted family and friends.

In the days, weeks and months following my assault, I constantly thought of the many ways I could have avoided the incident. As a former rape crisis counselor, I was aware that I was guilty and continue to be guilty of victim blaming. While I would never blame someone else that is sexually assaulted, it became different when I was the victim. I rarely recall the perpetrator, thinking of him in this context is to try and remember a shadowy figure that I don’t really know. Instead, I think of my own actions leading up to the point where a dark curtain is pulled across my memory. I consider the moment a friend offered me a ride home from the networking event we attended, the decision to grab dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and going to my friend’s holiday party. I remember sitting at the restaurant and thinking I should just go home as it started to drizzle outside.

In some of my weekly therapy sessions where I recounted the series of events, and analyzed the many things I could have done differently that night, my therapist would ask, “What is the point of doing that? What are you hoping to accomplish?” In those moments, I would pause. I am aware that this line of thinking does not contribute to my overall healing. Every time that I blame myself for what happened, I am forcing myself into a prison. In that prison, I cannot exist and live my life as I once did. Sure, I have changed since the incident. But I do not want to be in that prison that teaches women that we ask for it based on what we wear, because we go out, or any other nonsensical reason that holds the victim/survivor accountable for someone else’s wrongdoing.

The writer (“Kaya”) works in international affairs and is originally from an island in the West Indies.  She enjoys the outdoors, spending time with friends and reading and writing in coffee shops around town.

 

Best of the 2013 Caribbean Feminist Blogosphere

Travel across the islands and territories of the Caribbean and its diaspora and sample some of the best feminist blogging out there. 

What have Caribbean feminist women and men written about in 2013? Love, fashion, motherhood, being mixed-race, surviving child sexual abuse, healing from sexual assault, racist anti-Haitian citizenship policies in the Dominican Republic and so much more… Have a look!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elmer, 22 year old Belizean youth that comes from a humble yet hard working family. Today it is important for me to share my story with you.

Young Caribbean man breaks the silence on sexual abuse of boys in the region. (Belize)

So, when a man sets his girlfriend on fire, rapes his niece, or gouges out his ex-wife genitals, it is not simply because he cannot control his emotions or resolve conflict well. There are deeply embedded ideas about who owns and who is to be owned, who is in control and who is to be controlled, what makes a ‘real man’, and a woman’s rightful role to shape these encounters. To ignore this is to miss the mark.

Patrice Daniel is back again with more fyah! This time she writes about why the Caribbean is getting it wrong on violence against women. (Barbados)

“Can you live with knowing that you will never have answers about what happened? Is that something you can manage?”

Healing through words: Part one in a series on surviving sexual assault. (Diaspora)

So like my feminism, my politics of adornment are a critical part of how my race, class, gender and sexuality intersect. My feminism is about having the personal freedom to choose how I represent myself. My ability to express myself on my own terms is my attempt to return ‘the gaze,’ to push back, to style myself for myself. As I seek to own and affirmatively claim my identity, my body, my creativity… and ultimately my ‘self’, I feel incredibly powerful and beautiful and free.

Feminism, Fashion and the Politics of Adornment by Amina Doherty. (Nigeria/Antigua & Barbuda)

It’s possible to let your energy, love and time be wasted by those who are not clear what they want for you or those who are trapped in their own games. Such lost investment will only distract you from giving all to what you can most achieve in your path, your heart and your life’s work. Focus on those who most matter and know well why they do.

Forget new year’s resolutions.  What’s on your heart list, life list, fantasy list & balance list? (Trinidad & Tobago)

But it is also true that Caribbean women are not at equal risk of being made to strip, squat, bend over, finger-raped and humiliated at regional border points. We have seen little critical examination of the class and gender dimensions of this case. We might well ask whether there is an unspoken investment in gendered respectability in our rush to celebrate Shanique Myrie as a Caribbean Rosa Parks. As a not insignificant aside, consider the difference between the dominant idea of Rosa Parks we are familiar with, as the diminutive mother of the Civil Rights movement, and the Rosa Parks who was a highly active member of the NAACP and attended meetings of the Communist Party. And fewer of us have heard of Claudette Colvin, told to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks. We should pause to consider whether the fact that Colvin was an unmarried pregnant teenager has anything to do with her story not being widely told.

Alissa Trotz’s Inescapable Entanglements: Notes on Caribbean Feminist Engagement delivered at the 20th anniversary conference of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies. (Guyana)

In her pain, she was not allowed to belong anywhere. How could she belong when the halves of her were at war? When she was attacked by both sides? It is one thing to be condemned to a particular side because of your skin colour, but it is an entirely different thing to be a refugee in your own country because you do not truly belong to any side.

Sarah Bharrat of Guyana writes about what she calls “The Dougla Defect“, being mixed race in a racially polarised society. (Guyana)

“You said I remind you of the best parts of home. Like a lot of guys, you want to be nurtured but can’t nurture anyone because you barely know how.”

Writing about love from Creative Commess (Trinidad & Tobago)

“Growing up in Barbados, getting pregnant was the worst thing you could do. Not just as a teenager, but anytime before you had secured your place as a DoctorLawyerBankmanager. I’m serious. The Worst Thing.”

Mar the Mongoose blogs about the politics of motherhood. (Barbados)

Similar to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas also deports Haitian migrants regularly and grants very few work permits and rarely (if ever) asylum status, while depending upon the everyday labour of Haitian undocumented migrants. The Bahamas — somewhat like the DR’s new ruling — also denies rights to the children of migrants, the difference being that children of migrants do have access to birth citizenship rights, which they have to apply for at 18. However, this process can take years, especially if one does not have access to legal assistance.

Angelique Nixon, writing for Groundation Grenada, looks at human rights, migration and the future of Dominican@s of Haitian descent. (The Bahamas)

Happy New Year!

Leave us a comment with your fav feminist blogs! Let’s grow this list!

See also “Top 10 Must-read Caribbean Feminist Blog posts“, “Caribbean Digital Feminist Activism in a Post-Feminist Age“, “Social Media Strategies for Caribbean Activists“,  and “We’re excited about Online Caribbean Feminist Media.”

Prey/Pray- or- another one for the ‘almost rape’ aka ‘life as a woman’ files..

Guest post by Sherlina Nageer of Red Thread, Guyana

This is how it happens
This is how it happens
8:30pm
A woman is walking home alone
Nevermind what she’s wearing
There is no one else on the road
Some streetlights, but not the whole way
A car rolls up slowly behind her
Young man at the wheel begins the familiar hustle- “Goodnight. How you doing?”
Seemingly innocuous, right? Except that it isn’t
As usual, she ignores them
She is five houses away from her gate
Rebuffed, the car drives off
Then it pulls onto a neighbor’s bridge and turns around
Coming back, directly at her now
She is caught in the headlights
When they meet again, a hand snakes out the window and grabs her arm
Instinctively, she pulls away
“Touch me again, motherfucker!” she spits furiously
He looks at her semi-curiously
This seems not to be the reaction he expected
“Eh, is wha wrong wid you?”
“Fucking touch me again!” she challenges
Her keys are in her hand; his eyes an easy target
But there are more like him in the back seat and she is alone on the road
After a moment’s consideration, they drive away and she storms home

This is how it happens

Except sometimes they don’t loosen their grip and drive away

Prey/Pray

My friend N lives in the back of the Parfait Harmonie housing scheme. It is a long walk in to her house from where the bus drops her off. There are no taxis running short drop but even if there were, it’s not like she could afford to take taxis all the time. Predators can see the women coming from far off. They have plenty of time to hide behind the bushes, in ambush. N has been robbed and assaulted. She has written several letters begging the authorities to install streetlights. Months later, there are still no lights. She tries not to get caught on the road in the dark anymore. Her teenage daughter is similarly restricted. Another friend- A- lives in a long-established community that still doesn’t have electricity decades after its settlement. Every night, she has to go outside in the dark to bring her generator- her most valuable possession- back into her house. Those minutes are the most dangerous time of day for her. “Anything could happen; I know,” she says. “But I have no choice; I can’t leave it outside.”

Us vs Them
*They* don’t walk; *they* drive or are driven- SUVs and luxury vehicles with tinted windows and air conditioning. *They* live behind high walls and electrical fences, with armed guards at the gate. So *their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t have to fend off the advances of sick fuckers who grab women on the street, robbing and raping them. *Their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t have to struggle to fetch heavy generators up the steps while worrying about getting jumped in the dark. Which is not to say that *their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t get raped, beaten, or victimized btw- that just doesn’t happen on the street. Because *they* are just like the others; they rob, rape, and beat just like the rest- worse actually because they are wrapped in the cloak of power and privilege. So no surprise then, that *their* people welcome admitted pedophiles and anal rape advocates with open arms, and pay them top dollar to perform for the masses.
 

BOYCOTT HITS AND JAMS! BOYCOTT JAMZONE! GUYANESE SAY NO TO PEDOPHILES AND RAPE LOVERS!

 

solidarity

justice

walking the streets without fear

this is what i dream about

when i’m not having visions of raining bloody vengance down on the fucking predators

Get-of-out-jail-free card for rapists in Caribbean

Two recent cases reported in regional media demonstrate the extent of the injustice which girls who survive sexual assault face.

In the Cayman Islands a judge did not award a custodial sentence for a man who plead guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl because, “he had a wife and two children to support.” This along with the provisions for alternative sentencing, time spent on remand, his difficult childhood and psychological problems were offered up as reasons why a custodial sentence was not ordered.

The judge is reported as saying that “the most important thing was to create the circumstance where the defendant would never commit such an offence in the future.” He, however, failed to describe what exactly that would entail. It would certainly be useful to have practical and concrete advice on how we can collectively create the circumstances where no one ever commits sexual assault.  I’m not sure that deflecting responsibility from the persons who do is likely to be of much use.

All in all it seemed like a gross injustice and a suggestion that the rapist’s freedom and his patriarchal responsibilities were more important that the young girl’s life and right to bodily integrity. It really says a lot about our relative valuing of children and adults, girls and men.  Unpacking this decision also reveals the way in which heterosexual sex, even when criminal and coerced, is viewed as normal and inevitable.  Collectively we seem more moved towards safeguarding the future of the rapists than that of girls. We worry more about how an accusation of rape can ruin a man’s life and bury our heads in the sand about what the experience of rape does to a girl’s life. (Read Velika Lawrence’s story in the St. Lucia star. She is co-founder of PROSAF, an organisation which fights against child sexual abuse & incest).

In Antigua, a former principal and lay preacher escaped a custodial sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.  It was reported that the girls mother made a “stirring plea for forgiveness”, saying that she and her daughter had forgiven the sexual predator and he was a family friend.

In addition, the forgiving mother  also used the fact that the former principal was the sole breadwinner of his family to argue for a non-custodial sentence.

In examining why domestic violence complainants vanish from Caribbean courts, anthropologist Mindie Lazarus-Black argues that a culture of reconciliation operates in the Caribbean:

I coined the term cultures of reconciliation to identify local norms and practices separate and apart from law, but that influence profoundly the decisions people make about what to do about violence in their lives. The concept is useful both: 1) as an analytical framework to capture how local ideas and practices coalesce into structural patterns that operate
against the institutionalized forces of law; and 2) as a research tool for cross-cultural investigation and analysis. More specifically, cultures of reconciliation reflect norms and practices intrinsic to “family,” “gender,” and “work” that intersect to keep men and women out of legal processes. Such norms and practices are learned, mostly early in life. (Source: VANISHING COMPLAINANTS: THE PLACE OF VIOLENCE IN FAMILY, GENDER, WORK, AND LAW).

Perhaps it is this same culture of reconciliation with its gendered and hierarchical valuing of women and men which operates as a barrier to justice for girls who survive sexual assault. Rapists in the region have a perpetual get-out-of-jail-free card and these are the ones who actually have to stand before the courts.  Our culture of silence means most rapes and cases of incest goes unreported, ignored, invisible or resolved outside the law.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Edited to add:

Another recent story in Caribbean news reflects the sympathy offered up to men who abuse girls in the region.  In the Bahamas,  the overwhelming majority of the members of the Pilgrim Full Baptist Temple voted to retain their disgraced Bishop as head of the church despite the fact that he is currently serving three years in jail for having sex with a  dependent.  One of his colleagues suggested that the Bishop has neither admitted his sins nor asked forgiveness for them and should seek professional help.  Nonetheless, it is clear he has the support of the majority of church members. I suspect that the rush to forgive comes from the church members understanding of the 16-year-old girl as having been a temptress and the Bishop as unable to help himself.  It’s the message that’s repeated over and over when we tell women what to wear and how to act in order to avoid rape: that women are responsible for tempting men into sexual violence against them.

Leave a comment with any similar cases in regional news.

Can One Billion Rising End Violence Against Women?

Many Caribbean countries participated in the global One Billion Rising campaign. You can view photos from the events across the region and even add yours to the pool.

Barbados held two events:  One at the Cave Hill campus on the University of the West Indies which focused on sexual violence since three Caribbean countries are in the top 10 globally for rates of reported rape.  The other took place in the capital and featured collaboration among many women’s organisations, artists and UN WOMEN. The Bridgetown gained significant publicity in the mainstream media, particularly radio and press.  The following letter to the editor details the UWI event which was hosted by the Institute for Gender & Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit.

Barbados might be interested to know that the UWI Cave Hill Campus also held a significant One Billion Rising event that mainly targeted students, but also involved staff in the audience and as performers.

I write this letter and hope it is published because of what emerged. Female students at the campus routinely face harassment, sometimes physical, on ZR vehicles. Some also continue to face the problem of voyeurism (peeping toms) in some private residences around campus. Obviously this is unacceptable.

The Cave Hill campus administration does what it can from what I can see, including establishing protocols and addressing safety issues. In fact, the event was hosted by the university’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies – Nita Barrow Unit as a means of gathering just such data.

Students testified, a Guild of students spokesman informed that the Guild’s position was zero tolerance on campus and off, one male students spoke touchingly of the solidarity he feels his colleagues should express to prevent not only physical but also emotional abuse of young women.

Staff members and students performed poetry and sang songs relevant to the theme of rejection of violence in all its forms, and the need for the embrace of more loving, respectful and self-respecting behaviours by men and women singly and collectively. One staff member spoke of the fact young men are themselves victims of sexual violence by other men, and this underscores the evident necessity for men to strongly support the eradication of this scourge.

Violence against women is a feature of vulnerability, especially when men congregate in even temporary gangs.

It is good to see the solidarity your paper offers in highlighting these issues. I certainly ask our community of ZR drivers, conductors, owners and the owners of private residences around the campus to join you in that solidarity and put measures in place to secure the young women using their services. It is just the right thing to do.

– Margaret D. Gill

Source: This article originally appeared in the Barbados  as a letter to the editor.

Guyana also hosted a significant One Billion Rising event in which many women’s organisations participated. There were events in St. Lucia, Grenada and Antigua as well.

A recent comment on the CODE RED blog called into question the political strategies of the One Billion Rising Campaign:

I wish every Feminist initiative, everywhere around the globe, wholehearted success.

But… I have a seeeerious problem with the “Let’s All Dance!” focus for the “One Billion Rising” event. Could someone tell me WHY – and in a way that makes pellucid sense to me, WHY Women, in their seemingly chronic male-designation as Abuse Fodder, would choose the carefree, spontaneous, *celebratory* act of …dance: to (somehow?!?) symbolize the One Billion Rising initiative?

The whole things seems miscued, somehow; it appears – at least to me, like some desperate psychological “buffer” being enacted by Women globally, to try to distance themselves emotionally from what I have NO FEAR in stating as The Harsh REALITY: i.e., WOMEN’S RIGHTS IS ON A STEADILY DOWNWARD CURVE!

Consequently, to “Dance While Women’s Lives are BURNING TO HELL…smacks oddly of a SIMILAR Roman initiative. Only I think the Ancient used FIDDLES to distract themselves whilst their Home-Space INCINERATED!!!

So – as they say in Showbiz: “Break a Leg!”

 

This Huffing Post article took One Billion Rising to task for a lack of feminist consciousness, a refusal to name the causes of violence against women in favour of feel-good dancing in which everyone could participate and a false notion of sisterhood which perpetuates racist hierarchies.

What do you think? Is One Billion Rising a celebrity-driven, white-feminist-saving-the-Third-World-woman danceathon/mediafest that lacks political edge? Or were local organisers able to “creolise” the One Billion Rising to make it meaningful for their communities as part of wider and ongoing efforts to address violence against women?