Dr Stanley Niaah calls on artistes to show respectTuesday, October 12, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
WHILE not advocating censorship, university lecturer Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah is calling on Jamaican artistes to exercise social responsibility in their lyrics, especially as it pertains to women's bodies.
Her comments come in wake of the disclosure by reggae artiste Tanya Stephens that she had been raped. This has triggered public discussions on sexual abuse and assault.
For Stanley Niaah, the pervasive nature of this level of abuse, primarily against women, can be linked to a culture of entitlement in Jamaican society.
“Part of the challenge is the decades of socialisation patterns which privilege men and co-opted women into protecting men who are either abusing women or simply not doing right by women. This is clearly something that can be seen in our music, particularly dancehall,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
“Although I have not been the victim of sexual abuse, I have been exposed to sexual harassment, and the truth is, in almost every household in Jamaica there is a story of abuse or harassment of some kind,” the academic added.
Stanley Niaah, head of the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, noted that in her discussions with some of the island's leading social scientists, she discovered that Jamaica does not have a rape culture. However, she pointed to related crimes against women, which she said makes her very concerned as a woman, parent, and researcher.
“I believe that Jamaica still has a situation to deal with as the level of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and murder of women revolves around the entitlement to women's bodies. I am not one for censorship, but rather [I] advocate for everyone to uphold a high level of social responsibility. Our artistes must take social responsibility seriously and this must be reflected in their lyrics. They must understand the power they wield and act accordingly by making uplifting contributions to society through their music. I have noticed artistes such as Popcaan taking a stance with a song but this has to become more widespread. The passing of the Sexual Harassment Bill is a step in the right direction, but we need to make a public statement and show that we are serious. Punishment of the perpetrators, including incarceration, although that needs to be fixed as in its present state, it too contributes to abuse, but the point is we are way past talking,” she said.
The Sexual Harassment Bill was passed in the Lower House on October 1. It contains provisions for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, correctional institutions, places of safety, nursing homes, and medical and psychiatric facilities.
Sexual advances include any form of conduct or behaviour that could be a demand or request for sex or favours of a sexual nature; the making of sexual suggestions, remarks or innuendos; the showing of pornography or display of images or objects of a sexual nature and any other physical gesture, verbal/non-verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.
Additionally, sexual harassment is not just an unwelcome sexual advance. It also means the making of any sexual advance towards a person by another person which is regarded as offensive or humiliating by the person towards whom it is made, or which has the effect of interfering with the work performance of the person to whom the advance is made; or creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile working environment.