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Are we paying enough attention to our boys?

Are we paying enough attention to our boys?

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ONE OF the more encouraging aspects of the ‘orange outrage’ events that took place last week was the energetic and vocal support given by the boys of the St Vincent Grammar School to the call to end violence against women and girls.

We may be tempted to dismiss their words and actions as teenage boys being carried away in the moment and being happy for an opportunity to march up and down the tarmac as the girls looked on. However, even if this were the case for some of the boys, getting them to focus their attention on this scourge in our society, even for a few hours is a good start.

Evidence suggests that the Latin America and the Caribbean region has the highest rate of homicide among males aged 15-29 in the world, and a troubling manifestation of this increase in youth violence is the corresponding increase in violence towards young women.

Although young women are less likely to be victims of homicides than men, their lives are severely affected by their increased vulnerability to sexual abuse and violent attacks. Violence within intimate partner relationships and within families is common within the Caribbean context and women and young girls are particularly affected by this trend.

So, when a 14-year-old boy not only proudly carries a placard denouncing the objectification of women and girls, but is able to articulate what this means and why it is wrong, we have reason to be hopeful.

It has been the practice in our homes, churches and schools to drill into the minds of our girls from a very young age what they should not do if they do not want to fall victim to assault. Hardly do we think it useful to invest a similar amount of time and effort in training our boys to be respectful and empathetic of the girls in their sphere; to understand what constitutes consent and how to deal with rejection. Some parents seek to protect

their daughters but ignore the violent cancer spreading in their sons.

The practice by some adults to shame boys who cry or speak about their emotions may cause those boys to grow into men who have no other outlet for their emotions than to strike out violently. Imagine we have reached the stage where a disagreement about the outcome of a football match results in two young men being shot dead.

The past four weeks have turned up a series of particularly violent acts, and in our desperation, there is weeping, wailing and the proverbial gnashing of teeth. We seek answers which are not forthcoming, but are we asking the right people? Should we not as a society, begin to ask ourselves what is wrong? Are we ourselves to blame?

When we turn a deaf ear to the derogatory lyrics in the popular music around us and mindlessly repeat the catchy refrains without considering what we are saying. What do we expect to come from this?

Then what of parental responsibility? Does a teenage girl attaining the age of consent (16) mean that she is no longer under the care and control of her parents? How can a parent not know the whereabouts of a seven-year-old child?

Unfortunately, we have no ready-made answers and must do deep soul searching. The orange outrage of last Friday was encouraging, but now we must collectively seek to get to the root of our moral decline and painstakingly try to work our way out of it. A good place to start might be to pay more attention to our boys.