Our Readers' Opinions
September 7, 2007
Speak out against all forms of abuse


Editor: At the risk of ridicule from detractors, I call on all policy makers, especially those women in parliament, to respond to the recent report from the United Nations and World Bank, which states that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is among the top 10 countries in the world for recorded rape cases. Because some of the main perpetrators are among us and across the strata of our society, the issue of a rape epidemic transcends party politics, thus taking it out of the realms of NDP versus ULP.{{more}} One of the main issues is that those who are among the elite, especially politicians, seem to get away with the criminal conduct of rape and other forms of oppression against women. Instead, more focus and media coverage is often placed on those who are already at a disadvantage in society: young men. The fact that those who can buy themselves out of punishment by way of their socioeconomic status supports the argument that prison is not the answer or the appropriate treatment for those who are more likely to be charged and convicted, especially since there is no evidence of an effective, rehabilitative program in our prison system.

A report that places the spotlight on SVG in this way comes as no surprise to those of us in professions of health or social services, whether it be in the Caribbean or indeed abroad, where there is a high concentration of Caribbean nationals. My attention was drawn to this phenomenon some years ago when I met a leading psychiatrist who worked in High Wycombe General Hospital, Buckinghamshire, England. As soon as I introduced myself as having come from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the first topic of our conversation was the high level of incest among the Vincentian community in that part of the world. I also know of a number of cases in London, England, where young women became pregnant for the first time by their fathers, some of whom were actually imprisoned for their deeds. We may as well wash the dirty linen in public, as after all, the global light is on us now, anyway.

Do I speak from personal experience of incest or rape?

Well, while I have no personal experience of incest, I have had numerous near misses of rape. One such miss, for example, happened with a police sergeant when I was in my early teens, and I am sure not only has that man moved on, but he will deny every word of my allegation. But is this not the way these men operate, just for the moment, and worse if a pregnancy occurs? I can only attribute my good fortune to my being able to think fast and brave enough to threaten harm to myself to make them feel obliged to have to explain the circumstances were I found dead or seriously injured.

A more recent example is when someone, in Vincy language and style, threatened me with rape in cyberspace. This was an attempt to deter me from criticizing the ULP. And I think I have a fairly good idea of who that person was. In other instances, and as a young woman growing up in SVG, we could not get anywhere unless we were willing to trade our bodies, and although this could not be considered rape, it is another form of oppression against women. I believe little has changed, especially since the rumour is rife that some middle aged men use their positions to exploit our young women, thus competing strongly with our young men. Is it any wonder, therefore, that so many of our young and virile male species become downtrodden and outcasts? It is clear, too, that the finding that rape is at crisis level in SVG can well reveal other forms of oppression such as that of the many horror stories coming from marital homes.

For those of us WOMEN who have managed to liberate ourselves from such societal abuse, we are often ridiculed, even by our own kind. We render tacit support either by our silence or by propagating lies and bitterness against our own, and coming from men who were spurned. We nurture too much of the juvenile and primitive behaviour of our men, most of whom are unable to control their sexual prowess. Too many of our women succumb to such behaviour, thus leaving too few of us to struggle against the scourge of rape and other forms of abuse and oppression against us. It is for this reason that I argue prison sentences for only those who get caught, leaving the more privileged to continue at will.

There is more of a demand for education and rehabilitation for both MEN and WOMEN, and I call on all those women in civic or political standing, which include our Members of Parliament Girlyn Miguel and Renee Baptiste, to take the lead on this campaign. This is not a matter to be left for our male politicians to mouth off in Parliament or elsewhere.

Luzette King