Our Readers' Opinions
February 6, 2018
Are all Vincentian women victims?

Editor: The endless debate about the Yugge Farrell saga has again raised the issue of the status of women in Vincentian society.

As usual, the extremists have monopolized the argument by baldly claiming that the alleged long-standing adulterous love affair between our newly minted, 45-year-old Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, and Ms Farrell, aged 23, is a microcosm of the universal exploitation of young women in our society, especially by older, wealthier, and more powerful men.

Without denying that we have an unacceptably high rate of both forced and statutory rape in our little country, that women have traditionally had fewer privileges and opportunities for advancement than men, and that the exchange of sexual favours for money is widespread (as in most other countries), the position of the extremists lacks credibility.

One gossip-mongering online poster has given absolute credence to what she calls, “… the rumours about politicians in St Vincent and the Grenadines requiring women and young girls to trade sex for favours.” Based on this rumour, she then generalizes that, “… if you are a woman and you live in the Caribbean, it’s more likely than not that you have been sexually violated by a fella in a position of power.”

What is not credible about these assertions is not only that they are presented without evidence, but that they deny the “agency” of women — their capacity as individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices — in Caribbean society.

Much has been written about this controversial topic, but one finding remains unchallenged: the Black women of the Americas, nearly all of them descendants of slaves, are among the strongest willed, most resilient, most independent, and most self-reliant females in what is still very much a man’s world.

The same poster also claims that:

“Historically, Vincentian parents invested in their male children … [because] when these girls became pregnant in high school [they] had to terminate their education. The boys who fathered these girls’ children were allowed to continue their education while these girls’ futures along with their parents’ investments went up in smoke…. A wife who couldn’t give her husband a son was looked upon as a sort of failure.”

The writer seems ignorant of the fact that “historically” most boys never went beyond primary school, while their pregnant sisters, albeit with little education, generally ended up more literate than them, while more often remaining home where they supported and nurtured their parents in old age, as their brothers moved in with other families.

Today, our young women are largely far more mature, educated, and ambitious than our young men, a feature proven by the large and growing number and proportion of female professionals in our society – doctors, lawyers, civil servants, police officers, educators, and business owners – even while giving birth to out-of-wedlock children.

Yes, an infertile married woman may still be called a “mule,” though it is now recognized that male infertility is at least as common as the female variety. As for women who never married nor produced any children, they have always been community leaders and paragons of spinsterly virtue, especially at the highest ranks of our society, where there has always been a shortage of eligible men for privileged women to marry.

The Yugge Farrell saga has also been the subject of political aggrandizement, which has served only to further degrade our womenfolk, as in the case of Maia Eustace, a lawyer and the daughter of Arnhim Eustace, who at a New Democratic Party rally in Kingstown on Wednesday, January 31, reminded her audience that “… having sex with a girl under the age of 15 – the age of consent — is rape” and went on to say:

“So, imagine how much worse it gets when a senior minister, one who holds arguably the most important portfolio, finance, refuses to respond to an allegation of sexual exploitation.”

As far as I know, Yugge Farrell was over the age of consent when she was allegedly involved in a consensual relationship, presumably based on romantic love, if it continued as long as alleged, with Camillo Gonsalves.

The inflammatory rhetoric spouted by Eustace and other NDP stalwarts is similar to the radical lesbian feminist view that all heterosexual intercourse is rape.

What is most disconcerting about the erroneous and illogical arguments presented by these feminist storm-troopers on a very complex social and legal issue is that that they: (1) deny the strength and resilience of thousands of our womenfolk; (2) ignore the tremendous educational, employment, and economic gains our women have made over the past two generations; (3) show no understanding that women have always been household and neighbourhood leaders and role models in our society; (4) bury the elementary fact that there are thousands of deadbeat men across the land who have no power over themselves, let alone the women around them; and (5) reject the fundamental agency — control over their bodies and minds — that most Vincentian women have always had in our society.

To argue that all our women are victimized – as Maia Eustace did when she hyperbolically shouted that, “… every single woman here and within earshot of this microphone is victimized by it [oppression as women]” – only serves to perpetuate, legitimize, and devalue the true nature and extent of the oppression of women in our country.

C ben-David