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!

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

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.”


Guest post

Good evening. 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. I am speaking on the impact that my mother’s teenage pregnancy had on me, her son, the product of that pregnancy for a man ten years older than her. But I also want you to know that all four of my mother’s sisters found themselves being a mother in their teen years. I always said that if my mom could have only access sexual and reproductive health services in her adolescent years I would have escaped all the sexual abuses that have scarred my life forever. I know I have no right to judge my mother, but when I was born I knew not that I would never enjoy of my childhood years. Why you may ask? Well, mom was poor she had to work. That means she had to leave me in the care of someone who happened to be my grandmother who ironically should love me for the mere fact that I am her first grandchild. Nonetheless, it was not so. My grandmother hated me, the offspring of a teen pregnancy and the product of an outside marriage. She treated me badly. One day I clearly recall that grandma took me by my legs and slammed me against the wall; I burst my head. That mark still remains in the back of my head. This was the treatment I received for the first three years of my life. I was glad when mom enrolled me at preschool, it would mean I would be away from grandma almost all day. I hated my grandma and for many days questioned God why this had to be for me. Several times I wanted to take away my life. No one was there for me. No one! I often wondered why the poor people could not enjoy of utmost health services as the rich do; why the poor are often turned when asking or seeking professional help especially sexual and reproductive health services.

At age 7 I was sexually abused the first time. Since then it happened several times, however mom did not know. I was abused sexually by my neighbor’s wife, two uncles and a friend’s father. The worries and stress was just too much for me. I hated my uncles and the people who took away my childhood.

Today I stand in front of all of you and I say that these experiences molded me to be the Elmer that speaks to each one of you. I keep striving for a healthy future for my family and even the entire world. Today I serve as the Secretary of the Board of directors of GOJoven Belize alumni Association which has been in operation since 2011 serving the youth population of Belize in sexual and reproductive health and environmental consciousness programs. I also serve as the president of the National Aids Commission/ Country Coordinating Mechanism in my district. I love working for youth development and have shown it to this end and will continue to do so till my physical allows me to. My dream is to one day have all persons regardless of their age, ethnicity, color of skin, economic status, sexual orientation, to have free access to sexual and reproductive health and that their sexual rights, in fact all their rights are respected.

This testimony is published with the author’s permission.  It was delivered at the CARICOM/UNFPA High Level Meeting on Adolescent Pregnancy which took place in Trinidad & Tobago on December 9, 2013.  Elmer decided to grant permission for it to be published in the hope that “it would reach someone that would identify themselves with my experience.” The entire text and title are his own words.

The Double Injustice of Buggery Laws

In Barbados, a scout leader is charged with rape of a 12-year-old boy.  Legally speaking, he is charged with buggery* under laws which criminalise anal sex regardless of consent or lack thereof or age of the victim.

Following reports of the case the Chief Scout Commissioner has publicly spoken out against…wait  for it…not child sexual abuse…not all forms of abuse against children…but against homosexuality.

Most of the comments posted  to the Nation’s facebook page clearly recognise what the Chief Scout Commissioner does not, that this case is about the sexual abuse of a child not yet another opportunity for public expression of homophobia. Using the buggery laws to prosecute cases of child sexual abuse contributes to a lack of access to justice for children who are victims of sexual abuse.

One commenter wrote:

so had been it a girl would that have been okay!!! rather than look at it as being homosexual in nature..Look at it as a sexual assault on a minor and deal with accordingly..Rape is not a homosexual dis-eases!!

Another wrote:

This should not be about homosexuality. What consenting adults choose to do in their private lives, is their business, no on else’s. The Boys’ Scout issue is a criminal matter, it is sexual abuse of a minor. There is no such thing as “leader to boy” sexual contact and Dr Taylor should be ashamed to make such asinine comments. The accused should feel the full weight of the law and punished accordingly. Barbadians need to stop conveniently confusing homosexuality with child sexuality abuse.

This case, however, is but one example that points to a much larger problem. Most Caribbean countries prosecute instances of rape of boys by adult men using the laws against buggery. What this does is conflate rape with consensual relations and conflate the sexual abuse of a child with sex between adults. Ultimately it sends the message that it is the homosexual nature of the act that is offensive/egregious/illegal rather than the rape of a child.

The way in which Caribbean children (especially girls) suffer sexual harassment on the street and public transportation, the fact that girls who are victims of sexual abuse often end up themselves being criminalised by being removed from their homes and placed in dangerous state facilities (let us not forget Armadale) or are charged with wandering, demonstrate an overall inadequate and unjust response to child sexual abuse.

When the Scout Commissioner chooses to condemn homosexuality but not child sexual abuse it speaks volumes of the extent to which the severity of child sexual abuse as an infringement on the human rights of children and a denial of their bodily integrity is often diminished. To give but one of countless examples from the Caribbean, in Belize recently an adult man was charged with having sex with a child (girl). He was allowed to walk free when the girls’ father claimed he could not remember his daughter’s age. If as a region we took the sexual abuse of children seriously such a conclusion would be unthinkable.

In Caribbean feminist online community WOMANTRA I raised the following questions:

has any legal analysis been done on why the buggery laws are used in cases of male rape of boys and not child sexual abuse laws? Do these laws [against child sexual abuse] not cover abuse of boys? Do they carry lighter sentences? Are the statutory rape laws gendered and exclude boys?

Young lawyer, Richie Maitland, responded:

Suffice it to say that the buggery law is used because its the easiest to prosecute. They don’t have to prove anything beyond the fact of anal sex; they don’t have to prove non consent. There are other laws they could be prosecuted pursuant to, but it requires the prosecution to prove other elements.

Lawyer-in-traning and Children’s Rights Advocate, Rashad Brathwaite had this to contribute as we sought to write the post collectively:

The Sexual Offences Act in Barbados, unlike much of the Caribbean, sufficiently provides legal recourse for Child Sexual Abuse meted out against boys under 14 to be dealt with under the statutory rape provision without the additional hurdles of proof of non-consent. That is to say, there is no ostensible need to prosecute the abuse  of a 12 year-old boy under the buggery laws in Barbados.

The current state of the law throughout much of the region and the practice in Barbados require urgent reform to treat the abuse of ALL children, as a class of criminality that deserves its own treatment as an act against our collective humanity and deserving the highest levels of opprobium.

In so doing however, the law ought to treat to the sexual abuse of children, in the instant case the abuse of boys as conceptually distinct from the consensual sexual relations between adults.

Ultimately the buggery laws perform a double injustice. They criminalise sexual relations between adults and support a culture of homophobia and stigma.  They also reflect and support an inadequate response to child sexual abuse, leaving many children who are victimised without access to justice and normalising many forms of child sexual abuse.

Edited to add: conflating and confusing rape of boys with homosexuality also serves to silence boys who are raped or sexually abused. Because they fear being stigmatized and labeled, they suffer in silence, do not report the abuse and may even blame themselves for having been abused.

*based on the reports in the Nation News we assume that he has indeed been charged with buggery.

Check out this post entitled Everyday Rape for an earlier discussion on rape and sexual abuse in the region.

 Thanks to Rashad Brathwaite of CODE RED for gender justice! and Grenadian attorney-at-law Richie Maitland, for their contributions to this article.

A Week of CODE RED Reads: Housecleaning PMs, Rape as mounting, Caribbean LGBT Activism, Climate Justice and Abortions for Successful Living

Just a look at what we’ve been reading and talking about this week. Remember to email us at redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com to find out how you can involved with us offline.  We are looking for some Barbados-based volunteers to work on exciting projects.

LGBT Rights Activism
VIDEO: Caribbean LGBT activist voices among the strongest in the region right now. T&T-based CAISO and St. Lucian United & Strong among other organisations participating in international dialogue and human rights training taking place in St. Lucia.

VIDEO: “I am a Belizean.” Belize leads the Caribbean on pro-LGBT rights activism. This public service announcement aims to promote tolerance in a society where homophobia is widely practiced. We Are One! In dignity and rights.

Human Rights in Guyana
Guyanese in Barbados to protest against human rights abuses in their homeland.

Misopolis Abortion Rights Campaign
Some of our facebook fans believe that the “Misopolis: Abortions for successful living campaign” misses the mark. It spoofs a Diesel ad campaign in order “to expose the violations of women’s rights that take place in the garment industry”? The hoax was devised by Women on Waves and Women on Web, both non-profit organizations concerned with women’s human rights and specifically with access to safe medical abortion.

One person wrote:

Not a fan of this one at all. Feel it misses the mark and treats the issue a little too glibly. Eye catching for sure though.

One CODE RED member responded:

Back in 2008 ECKO had a “hot girls make great clothes” campaign which featured models pretending to do the sewing, stiching, dyeing, packing etc it takes to manufacture jeans. Each model-as-garment-factory-worker had a persona and customers were encouraged to leave messages for her. And leave messages they did—obscene, sexist, objectifying and CRASS. When I first saw the Misopolis campaign it felt like a spoof of the ECKO campaign. Their website says its a hoax of a diesel campaign. I too feel that the campaign misses the mark. What was ridiculous about the ECKO campaign was that it continued to hide the real faces of factory labor. I think the Women on Waves spoof does the same thing. Garment factory labour remains invisible. I agree with you that the way they deal with abortion also seems too superficial. And too much presented as some form of consumer choice rather than as a woman’s right. Considering how strong the anti-abortion push is globally I worry that such glib treatment will actually undermine what Women in Waves and Women on Web stand for—women’s human rights and access to safe medical abortion.

Gender Insensitive Caribbean Media
Caribbean reporting on violence against women still leave a lot to be desired:
The Demerara Waves report includes statements such as “mounting her”, “feigning pleasure” and graphic details of the alleged assault. The report also states that the complainant said that she would have killed the rapist had she gotten the chance. It also raises the question of why she failed to report the rape immediately. The accused is the Commissioner of Police in Guyana and he has not been charged. Many of the persons commenting on the story say they think the rape accusation is false.  CODE RED reached out to Demerara Waves via twitter but has  not yet received a response.

Climate Justice
Caribbean people are at the forefront of the movement calling for climate change action and climate justice: “What was it that made the critical difference? It was the voice of the Caribbean, and particularly [Grenadian Foreign Minister] Karl Hood’s intervention. But Karl Hood’s intervention was kind of on the shoulders of a really sustained effort on the part of some Caribbean leaders, like former President Jagdeo of Guyana, of people and institutions like the Climate Change Coordinating Centre in Belize – for example, and all of that effort came to a kind of crescendo that night.”

Gender and Politics
The fact that Jamaica now has its first elected female Prime Minister continues to provoke sexist and quite frankly, bizarre comments.  JLP described PM Portia Simpson Miller’s decision to appoint three women to the Cabinet as ‘jobs for the girls’. Three woman cabinet members dismissed as illegitimate, unnecessarily costly excess baggage just because they are women, no, girls! Jamaican scholar Carolyn Cooper breaks down the sexism and old boys’ network logic behind these comments.

Following quickly on the heels of the JLP, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister says “You won’t get away with a woman presiding over a dirty country.”  He argued that visitors to the island may be willing to put up with a dirty JA if the PM is male but with a woman at the helm, the country better be clean, if nothing else. Right, because women, even women PMs are naturally more suited to cleaning. And even if they are not naturally suited to it, it’s their job.

Just a quick look at what we’ve been talking about. Have your say in the comments below and join us online and off!

The Good, Bad and the Ugly of Caribbean feminist, gender & sexuality news this week

Here are some of the top stories in Caribbean feminist and gender news for Jan 1-9, 2012:

The Good

Guyana to begin vaccinating girls against HPV this week!  This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness month.  What a great way to begin the month! Time for the other Caribbean countries to follow Guyana’s lead!

WIN-Belize is in the process of revitalizing its Young Women Mentorship Program and you can get involved.

Some Good, Some Bad

Dominica and The Bahamas have been ranked among the top 10 ethical destinations in the developing world for 2012. Countries were evaluated in three main categories: environmental protection, social welfare and human rights. Dominica was lauded for its renewable energy policy and for being one of the few Caribbean nations to sign a statement of LGBTQ rights at the UN in 2011. The Bahamas received kudos for its commitment to shark conservation. Both Dominica and The Bahamas were ranked highly in terms of political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. Barbados was on last year’s list, but wasn’t included in the 2012 ranking; the reason given was that the government has not shown itself to be committed to its promises of environmental protection and sustainability.

The Bad

Woman in Guyana dies after unsafe abortion even though abortion has been legal there since 1996. Former Minister of Health says that women may be uninformed about certified abortion providers.

The Ugly

JLP described PM Portia Simpson Miller’s decision to appoint three women to the Cabinet as ‘jobs for the girls’.Three woman cabinet members dismissed as illegitimate, unnecessarily costly excess baggage just because they are women, no, girls!

Want more Caribbean feminist/women’s/gender news?

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CODE RED is a feminist collective of Caribbean women and men. We are the only online source for daily updates and aggregation of Caribbean news and links related to feminist, gender and sexuality issues (via our facebook page)