Roberta Clarke, on her Roots and Rights blog, pointed out that for the last 20 years women’s organisations have in fact been speaking out, advocating for legislation, running shelters and crisis centres etc. Caribbean women have been anything but silent in the face of relentless and ongoing violence. In the 1980s schoolgirls in St. Vincent and the Grenadines marched to protest sexual violence and in 2013 women’s groups across the region continue to do unrecognised, invisibilised work.
When it comes to sexual violence the overwhelming majority of persons who are raped or sexually assaulted are women and girls and the overwhelming majority of rapists are men. Men and boys too are victims of rape (though not at the same rates as women and girls) and in these cases too, men are the overwhelming majority of rapists. It should therefore be self-evident that sexual violence is a men’s issue. And the more appropriate question to ask is why men as the majority of elected leaders in the region, as individuals and members of various men’s organisations are not doing everything in their power to end sexual violence. Rape is a men’s issue. Ending rape, speaking out against violence against women and girls is the collective responsibility of men.
Yet, men collectively, as major power brokers in the region, are silent.
Why are Caribbean men silent on rape? Why did it not occur to Rickey Singh to ask this question? Why is men’s silence not shocking?
Everybody should be outraged when schoolgirls are sexually harassed in the street and on public transportation, when women are killed by their intimate partners, when police officers turn away rape survivors for being naked, when payments are accepted in lieu of prosecution in cases of child sexual abuse, when our legal system supports this form of injustice, when deputy commissioners of police suggest that teen girls are the ones responsible for the sexual crimes against them. Everybody should be outraged. Not just women. Not just the handful of women parliamentarians. Not just overworked and underfunded women’s organisations. EVERYBODY. And that includes men who for too long have been shamefully silent. (Big up attorney Lennox Sankersingh and the other lawyers who have offered to support rape survivors throughout the legal process in Trinidad and Tobago).
Why are men silent on sexual violence against women and girls?
What does their silence communicate?
Does it communicate an acceptance of rape culture, of gender inequality? An understanding that violence against women and girls and the threat of it is part of what helps to maintain male privilege? A desire to see that privilege maintained at all costs?
It’s time we heard from Caribbean men what they intend to do to end gender-based violence.
I’m all ears…