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?

Man kills 4-year-old witness of alleged rape, cue victim-blaming

Tianna Thomas posted this to our facebook wall and gave us permission to share it here. It revolves around the way in which a man who allegedly killed a four-year-old boy is absolved from blame by some members of the public who choose to focus instead, on accusing the boy’s 17-year-old aunt of making a false accusation of rape. (The young woman has since reported that she too feared for her life and was raped by the assailant). As if an assumed false rape claim should either overshadow or justify the murder of a 4-year-old. Why is the young woman, who had nothing to do with murdering an infant, on trial here? What does it mean when some of us are able to completely bypass the murder of a child and focus instead on calling the young woman a liar as if to suggest that not only is she culpable in the boy’s death but that she is MORE culpable than the man that killed him and raped her!

I was just reading a story on the Demarara Waves Facebook site about a man who stabbed a 4 year old boy to death after allegedly raping the child’s 17 year old aunt. In the comments, there was this remark left by a female commenter:
“This is so damn sad and that’s a wicked aunt, she is now claiming “rape” because that child walked in on them, he was 4 years omg by next week he would have forgot that already, I’m sure he didn’t even understand what was going on, they could have make up so damn lie and tell him, now she being a wicked aunt ran away and look what she has to live with now, the man she was just sexing Murdered her nephew, she wouldn’t want to see a next Penis for the rest of her wicked life. How could he look at that child and stab him for being cause in his wicked dead, sexing his sis in law omg, she should kill her damn self”.
Needless to say, I was horrified by the commenter’s words. It brings to light a bigger problem within the myriad of other issues with society’s response to victims of sexual assault. It’s something I have noticed while living in Guyana. There always seems to be someone placing some degree of blame on the victim. Mind you, the article said NOTHING about the aunt bearing false witness against the person accused of the murder. Whether the allegations of rape are true or not is not clear at the moment (the girl has been taken to the hospital for a medical screening), but it is sickening to see that even though she herself may be a victim in the case, instead of being met with the appropriate care that victims of sexual assault need, she is met with blame. This woman goes as far to ask the alleged victim to “kill herself”. THIS is the reason why so many sexual assaults go unreported. THIS is the reason why many assault victims would rather take monetary compensation than go through the often degrading process of trial. THIS is why may victims commit suicide. Blame is placed only on the victim and not with the attacker, where it belongs. I don’t know if the alleged victim is being truthful, but who am I or who is anyone else to say that she is lying? Especially since the investigation has just commenced? Ugh. I apologize again for the lengthy post. This has been on my heart since I read the story and I just needed someplace to rant.

Guyanese activist Sherlina Nageer also pointed out, “in addition to the individual condemnation of this young woman, there’s also the institutional disregard that makes this even worse. when she ran to the police station seeking help, they told her that she was ‘hostile’, “and that I shouldn’t be making noise in the station.”

Red Round-up

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

The United Nations reports that 1.8 million people have been affected by Hurricane Sandy in Haiti. Food security has been severely affected with up to two million people at risk of malnutrition.

T&T Police Tell Women Not to Get Raped

Women who exercise on Lady Chancellor Hill in Trinidad & Tobago have been advised by police to exercise caution in order to avoid rape.

CODE RED Builds Caribbean feminist online database

CODE RED is building a digital archive of Caribbean feminist online spaces. Contribute by telling us about your favourite Caribbean feminist blogs, forums, groups, pages etc.

T&T Community College Blazes Trail by offering Daycare on Campus

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.

How awesome is it to know that feminism is alive and well in the region.

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!

Ending Rape Culture in the Caribbean

Zero Tolerance Will Yield Zero Impact until We Get Hard On Rape Culture

We have crazy ideas about men. We talk about their primal desires as uncontrollable, insatiable hormone driven NEEDS for sex as if they were fully embuddyed, rendered mindless and essentially emotionally stunted. The overwhelming power of testosterone is their divine curse, comparable to “that time of the month” for a woman. Testosterone as the principal male sex hormone means that we accept that it’s OK for men to always be a “little crazy” when it comes to “that thing”. We generally accept as natural, the idea that sexual choice and decision making almost exclusively comes from what’s between a man’s legs, rather than his eyes or beneath his rib cage. So in 2006 when Dr. McGill was quoted in the Jamaica Gleaner as saying “if there are problems with who [a man] thinks he is, if his social skills are marred but his sexual developments normal, his sex drive pushes him to satisfaction (by any means necessary)” We swallow this kind of reasoning up. I guess a spoonful of sugar really makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way.

In the field of crazy of ideas, here are a few of my own.

  1. Men aren’t marginalized, they ARE imprisoned.  Overwhelmed by social demands that force them to constantly act out and prove their manhood by performing a kind of masculinity that demands dominance over everything and everybody, particularly women, to gain legitimacy as worthy men. Life as a man in patriarchal prison means you’re on house arrest and you have to wear an annoying ankle bracelet. Sure an ankle bracelet is challenging, but not impossible to live with. So our average man pretends that he’s impervious to pain, and life’s stressors are just tests for which he “mans up”. Our average guy feels the prison of his own house is still better than being locked away in a high security prison, heck anybody can used to an ankle bracelet. Men are reasonably comfortable in their patriarchal prison and are often the chief beneficiaries of its privileges.  Privilege can sure make prison life feel like it’s worth it. So what if a guy can’t cry freely or be true to the underlying range of his human emotional responses. Come on, everyone “knows” that the most legitimate masculine emotion is anger anyway. So, many men continue to suppress their capacity for empathy and deny their capacity for substantive human connection. This denial means the majority of imprisoned men which make up a good chunk of the 49% of the population remain committed to reaffirming their manliness while claiming their rights to lead and getting the “best” of all things (and women) the society has to offer.

2. The world doesn’t need one more “nice guy” who DOES NOT take a stance on sexual objectification of women and violence, especially violence against women. Like the word suggests when you objectify a woman you “thingify” her. She becomes primarily her ass, tits, pussy, a Teacha’s Pet, a thing with a rack, wid tings weh jus’ “bubble”, a breathing entity yes, but yuh cyan help but “clap dat” or in Antigua kick een she back door. Wi need fi use our heads, have a conscience and understand that the thingyfication happens when everything we see including printing services on a giant Half Way Tree billboard which has a “girl frog” with legs spread and a caption “You know you want me” or chicken wings advertisements where three attractive women ask “what’s your flavour”, makes women’s humanity more and more invisible. The marketing decisions that produce music and advertising I described included the input of nice guys, and “well reasoned” women. But wait, nice guys, and even well reasoned women, have testosterone too right? Right the stuff that makes you a little sexually crazy.

As I write this Jamaica has been shaken again by another horrific story of how a few men couldn’t control “their crazy”. The men got so crazy on the diet of thingyfication and being constantly told that compassion, caring, and respectful interdependence ah “gyal ting” that they could exploit, defile and damage 5 women, including an 8 year old, all because the only thing worse dan being a “gyal” is being a “batty man”.

Men need to acknowledge that it’s not the damn testosterone, but rather this matrix-like life under house arrest that has left you messed up in your heads and hearts. It appears to me that it’s no coincidence that men make up most of our mentally disturbed and homeless on Kingston’s streets, Jamaica’s homicides are still primarily perpetrated BY men AGAINST other men, and rape and sexual assaults worldwide and in Jamaica are still primarily committed by men. We’ve had spoonfuls and generations of the mind dulling sugary medicine about needing IT so bad men can’t control themselves, that the craziness starts to feel “normal”. Men and women start to believe that men’s unfettered anger, lack of self control and emotional shallowness isn’t great for most societies but hell we accept it, we never really demand more, and currently we just ask that theydon’t let it get out of hand.

So let’s not be disingenuous by saying that this time it was a “deliberate act of violence to show power”. RAPE ALWAYS IS! And we simply don’t take it far enough when we describe the incident “as one of the most shocking, horrific and despicable crimes committed against Jamaican women”. It, like every rape, should be felt by each of us as if it is a crime committed against every Jamaican. The equally important question is what continues to push men so far to the edges of their own humanity? What is happening in the emotional and psychological life of the man who rapes AND the man who silently just hopes that it won’t happen to a woman he loves? What causes the disconnection so deep that men can comfortably thingify women and reduce the complexity of sexual desire to a demand made by a penis? When we naturalize male violence, accept thingyfication and fail to help men fulfill the fullest expressions of themselves, we create cultures that propagate rape and widespread complicity. Until we are willing to take responsibility for those things, the work towards zero tolerance for sexual violence will continue to be undermined almost to the extent that it has zero impact.

Article by Jamaican feminist activist and social entrepreneur, Georgia Love.

Image source: Lime Jamaica