These young people have shared their stories with us. We have a responsibility to respect these stories, to receive them with gratitude for they are an example of fierce generosity, to treat them with tenderness and compassion because learning to trust your own consciousness is to live life radically on your own terms.
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
Guest post by Colin Robinson
In a 2002 decision soundly criticised in a UWI-commissioned law paperby SeShauna Wheattle, a former Chief Justice freed Marvin Marcano for Christopher Lynch’s murder, saying his victim’s same-sex sexual advance was so unnatural it would send any right-thinking person crazy. Women don’t enjoy that protection. Twelve years later, a few months after the paper, the retired CJ mused that same-sex love is not repugnant and hurts no one.
But take Baker out of the picture. What about the other MPs, on different benches in both houses, who are lesbian, gay or bisexual? Who is “vulnerable” when they make sexual advances? Does our culture of scandal and stigma around same-sex desire make such office holders especially susceptible to sexual blackmail? Do our unenforced laws that make such behaviour illegal, even when it’s consensual, drive talented people away from—or out of—public service? Does the forced secrecy around such desire drive powerful people to seek sex from the vulnerable?
Public debate has also not yet turned on the fact—perhaps because few know this—that 25 years after Independence, the PNM created a new law criminalising with a five-year jail sentence a man playing with another man sexually in private— regardless of consent (though no one may have ever been prosecuted for consensual conduct). No parliamentarian is calling for such laws—which could be used to prosecute them—to be repealed.
But some things are refreshing. Despite the “No man, woman or goat is safe from this Government” picong—the titillation of prime time TV reporting—and the broadcast of a purported recording of a grown politician in tears on the phone—I’ve heard no loud voice say no homosexual belongs in the nation’s Cabinet. Last week the chief justice, attorney general, police commissioner, house speaker and arts minister all turned out to embrace the visiting American couple whose son, Matthew Shepard, was murdered, and listen to their message of acceptance and equal rights (though Rodger Samuel, put in charge of national diversity, was notably absent.)
Hopefully Dr Baker and his accuser will be judged on the ethics of their conduct and not the other’s sex.
Forging the liberty to love: one nation…many bodies…boundless faith.
Five things you MUST read this week:
We heed the lesson of Esu and forgive what we thought we saw the first time round. All around me are black men so full of love and tenderness for their children that I’m often on the edge of weeping for joy when I see us on the street, give dap to us when we get together. We can let statistics that want to tell one story ‘prove’ one thing to us, but we must watch what is actually happening and seek out stories on the ground; walk to the other side of the mountain to find out the real truth.
There is a difference though, between mere survival and a good life. It’s the difference between having bread in your belly but fear in your head. There are a lot of frightened people in Guyana. They can seem to be in the majority, drowning out all signs of hope. But as long as there are people standing on the street corner, in the rain, holding soggy placards, I know we have still some humanity left. And as long as we have that, we have a chance. Join us. Be the change you want to see.
2. Feminist organisation, Red Thread, along with other progressive movements and people in Guyana, took to the streets in the pouring rain to seek justice for 23-year-old Colwyn Harding. Colwyn alleges that he was raped by police officers and treatment of his extensive injuries was delayed. In this letter, Red Thread outlines what keeps them going amidst the apathy and fear.
I remember the gentle sing-song sound of her Hausa float off the tip of her tongue (a tongue I knew too well and for more than just its words).
3. The passage of Nigeria’s anti-gay marriage bill signals deepening homophobia across the continent as well as criminalisation, not just of same-sex relationships, but of LGBT organisations and persons working with and for these organisations. This tenderly written, playfully erotic story of love and friendship between two Nigerian girls is a timely reminder that queer relationships are part of human desires for connection and community. Enjoy 😉
4. Reports out of St. Lucia are that cases of sexual violence made up more than 30 of the 80 cases on the docket on January 16. These cases included a man charged with the rape of three nine-year-old boys, multiple cases of rape and sex with a minor committed against girls and a man charged with two counts of incest against his daughter.
Activists from St. Lucia are part of CatchAFyah’s Eye2Eye project which seeks to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. Please stay with us for updates about this project and information on how you can get involved.
5. A diverse group of Jouvayists from Haiti, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and the diaspora have responded to the #dearCaribbean Blog Carnival call with words, images and lots of love. Check out their stories and don’t forget that you too can share your own with us!
6. A Belizean 19-year-old trans girl was murdered this month. While her family reports that she was killed because of her gender identity expression other reports suggest that the killer’s intentions were to rape her and they murdered her after discovering that she was a trans woman. This most recent murder recalls the murders of trans women in Guyana and Jamaica last year.
Most people who know very little about Barbados often stereotype Bajans as passive snobs proud of coming from a country known as “Little England.” What they often fail to recognise is what that Little England legacy means for many Bajans in terms of social exclusion.
Media reports on the launch of the Country Assessment Of Living Conditions highlight the fact the individual and household poverty in Barbados has almost doubled over the last 20 years. The reason given for the increase in poverty are the barriers to access created by stigma, inter-generational poverty and lack of educational and skills qualifications despite high government spending on education. It was also reported that discrimination based on “age, sex, area of residence, religion, disability, sexuality, migrant status or HIV status”, and that the attitudes of people toward “sex workers, the disabled, Rastafari, gays, the homeless, people living with HIV/AIDS, to mention some . . . meant lack of access to several public amenities and services, and therefore limited their ability to enhance their living conditions”.
The report goes on to note that only 36% of children in Barbados live in homes with both their parents. 86% of mothers are present in the home but only 40% of fathers. The report also reinforced what has been a long-time fact in the region, that households headed by women predominate amongst poor households.
The report also mentioned incest and sexual exploitation of both boys and girls by adult men.
The effects of being poor in Barbados were noted:
the Country Assessment also indicated that the high cost of living, particularly food and utility bills, were having a negative effect on Barbadians’ living conditions and their ability to meet basic needs.
“Respondents identified some of the devastating effects that living in poor conditions and in poverty have on their health, on their relationships, on how they are treated by others in relation to social and familial exclusion, and on their self-esteem,” the study said.
“Many stressed the serious psychological and emotional damage that they experience, including stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, helplessness and powerlessness. These issues are all strongly interrelated with three main characteristics: unemployment, low-paying/part-time employment (under-employment), high levels of dependency in households, and social and familial exclusion.”
The report provides a lot of important data from which sound social policy can be made. For me it suggests that social mobility in Barbados has shifted, has become more difficult. (Something I had personally observed as well.) That Barbadian society has become more exclusionary, shutting out people who come from poor families or working class neighbourhoods, who live with disabilities or HIV, who are poor migrants, LGBT and poor or young and poor. Government spends lots of money on an education system that serves to reproduce the class system rather than challenge it. The result is that while many children from poor families do excel, many many others drop out with no qualifications and many barriers to steady work.
As Barbados works towards a National Gender Policy it has this very important research to guide the policy-making process. Addressing social exclusion in Barbados must be high on the objectives of the Gender Policy.
It’s also time CODE RED for gender justice! to conceptualize a project which addresses social exclusion.
We post almost-daily updates of Caribbean news and commentary on issues related to gender, sexuality, Caribbean development and environment on facebook. Facebook now requires that you pay to promote individual posts which makes the awareness-building, consciousness-raising work we do online a little more difficult since our annual budget is 0. We’ve watched our page views fall after this policy was implemented. That just means we’ve gotta do more red-round-ups where we highlight key stories and happenings in the region. So here goes:
Homophobic Violence at Jamaican University
Viral video of security guard in homophobic attack against Jamaica University of Technology students . J-Flag has responded to offer support to the young men who were victimised and have condemned the violence as “evidence of the malignant level of homophobia, which continues to pervade all levels of Jamaican society and ravage lives.”
1.8M Haitians affected by Hurricane Sandy
T&T Police Tell Women Not to Get Raped
CODE RED Builds Caribbean feminist online database
YAY! Here’s to other Caribbean colleges and universities following their lead!
Video: Young feminist activist from Trinidad & Tobago, Stephanie Leitch, talks about feminism in the Caribbean.
Barbados Launches Child Support Fund
Barbados government to provide $50 per week (USD$25) for children whose fathers have been ordered to pay child support but who have not. Fathers who are primary caregivers will also be able to apply to the fund. The Maintenance Act will also be amended to ensure that fathers could apply for child maintenance at the Magistrates’ Court (at present only mothers can apply for maintenance at the Magistrates Court).
Suggest a link to us by leaving a comment!