The rape of a nation
In recent weeks, in the wake of that horrible story about the five females who were raped at Irwin Point, St James, much public outcry has been expressed by people from all walks of life. Ironically, even as the country comes to terms with that dastardly act, allegedly committed by two brothers, there have been several media reports of other cases of sexual assault, including one in which a 63-year-old man is said to have had sex with a 12-year-old girl.
But then, this national scenario of sexual deprivation takes on an even more gut-wrenching aspect when the spotlight turns to Trelawny, where another horrific story has unfolded. Two juvenile boys drowned in the Martha Brae River while residents insist that they were sexually molested before being dumped there. The backdrop to all of these and many other acts of criminal violence is the animalistic reaction of many angry citizens who espouse vigilantism. I have listened to otherwise sane and rational individuals saying that the men who raped that eight-year-old girl at Irwin Point should be publicly executed in Sam Sharpe Square. Others, especially womenfolk, have advocated that all rapists should be castrated.
It has to be admitted that we are a very violent nation. Almost daily citizens cry out and demonstrate against perceived acts of police extra-judicial killings, while wanton acts of vigilante justice are meted out against people suspected of having carried out a criminal act or are just suspects. All of this makes one ask whether or not there is a violent strain of genes in our DNA. It has been posited that during the infamous Atlantic Slave Trade, Jamaica got the most violent and irascible set of chattel from West Africa.
Jamaica's early history has been laced with much violence. Men were routinely whipped, hanged or brutalised by plantation owners and their surrogates. Women were raped by their masters in the most savage and demeaning ways. Choice male slaves were also used as studs, not only to produce quality offspring to ensure an enduring and durable "livestock" to work in the sugar cane fields, but to satisfy the insatiable lusts of the white women in the great houses.
It is out of this cauldron of sexual co-mingling that the Jamaican nation has emerged. Is it any wonder that so many of our men remain glorified studs and sperm donors even to this day?
Then there is that dark side to how many Jamaican men view having sex with women. Many of our males declare that when they are "beating the plate" if the woman does not cry out in pain then it is not worth it. And I well remember that in my youthful days, a common practice was that of "battery" whereby several boys or men would take turns ravaging a girl or woman who for the most part was an unwilling victim. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this practice is still very commonplace.
Then there is the stepfather phenomenon that has wreaked havoc right across this country. Numerous stepdaughters have been the victims of their stepfathers' infidelities and what makes this so horrendous is that mothers, for economic and other self-serving reasons, allow this to go on under their very noses! The sad truth is that there is much hypocrisy surrounding the sexual exploits of this violent nation. Women are being raped and these acts of violence are not reported because of the shame and scandal attached to the victim, fear of being killed by the perpetrators, or the painful experience of having to turn up to court repeatedly without there being a clear-cut conviction.
The virility of our male athletes and the legendary sexual prowess of the average Jamaican men have been part and parcel of the Jamaican brand that has helped to give our thriving tourism industry a certain allure and resilience only whispered about but not brought to the fore; in the same way that we continue to be ambivalent about ganja smoking. Recall the "rent-a-dread" practice in Negril?
Interestingly, the most beloved and influential person in most Jamaican men's lives is their mother. Intriguingly, the same artiste that tears down and belittles women sings and deejays lyrics, extolling the virtues of their mothers. Mothers are put on a pedestal by them while they "diss" their girlfriends and spouses.
In all of this, our women allow themselves to be treated with disrespect and violence. Some go as far as to say that if their men do not beat and disrespect them, then there is no true love. It is some of these same women who wash the bloody clothes of their murderous sons, boyfriends and husbands; who revel in their ill-gotten gains and hide them from the long arm of the law. It has been said that women are the backbone of this nation, that Jamaica is a matriarchal society. Against this background, I am calling on the women of Jamaica to lead the charge in rescuing this country from the abyss, because in this context every time a woman is raped it is this nation that is raped. The spirit of Nanny must rise to the fore.
Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party.