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‘Bad man doh account to no woman’
I won’t belabour the blatant objectification of women in the Prime Minister’s block-talk guffaw that “a golf course is like a woman, you have to groom her everyday otherwise it turns into a pasture”. Objection means seeing or referring to someone as a commodity or object, you know, like a pasture. Or, seeing women as an object of male sexual desire, you know, like sexual offenders’ practice of grooming girls to enable their acquiescence to sexual predation.
On national TV, of the many things we saw is that even Parliament isn’t a workplace where women are safe from sexist jokes by powerful men. Tells you a lot about the likelihood of that kind of bro-code language and power being similarly and discomfortingly wielded across our nation’s workplaces in addition to its street corners. It also tells you a lot about the myth of women achieving all they want. You could get your education and your career, but you are out of order to expect ideals of manhood to change in acknowledgement of the fact that you are not just meant for men’s bedrooms, groomed.
However, above all, it’s his unapologetic impunity that makes me want to throw a teacup in Dr Rowley’s direction.
The guy is a UWI graduate, a grandfather, political party leader, and the most influential elected official in the land. Parliament was in a supposedly serious debate about responses to an economic crisis which is extremely likely to exacerbate intimate partner violence as household insecurity increases. And, finally, a woman is neither like a golf course nor a pasture, because she is a person.
Impunity is freedom from punishment for harm caused, and its pervasive, making you wonder if all women and girls should arm themselves with a driving iron to unhesitatingly use in response to sexist language, harassment and violence. The extremely low conviction rates for domestic violence and sexual assault tell us much about the extent of that impunity, for there are no real consequences for wrong-and-strong men. In the context of such state-enforced gender inequality, Dr Rowley’s lack of real accountability further asserts, hope for solidarity and expect salt, for bad man doh account to women and doh give no apology.
Ironically, in the same week, the “me too” campaign circulated across the lives of millions on the planet. Started by activist Tarana Burke ten years ago, the words are meant to show that girls and women who have survived sexual abuse and exploitation are not ashamed and are not alone. Revived as a social media status, women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted disclosed their own survival, with far too many in Trinidad and Tobago either adding their post or reading others with which they could identify.
I had been lucky enough to attend the third match between the Sri Lankan and West Indies cricket teams last week Friday, but unlucky enough to see a longtime cameraman, and sexual assaulter from my youthful newsroom days, there also. I pointed him out to Ziya and told her what he had done so she could know, her mom is educated, employed and empowered, but look at what impunity looks like because he never faced consequences. Yes, “me too”.
Last year was swept with “Life in Leggings” stories from Caribbean women harassed and harmed. Then, as now, I find myself asking the “what about the men” question that occupies everyone when girls are doing well because they worked hard, but not when women are being dehumanised and threatened. Don’t men want a world where no girl or women has to again say “me too”? Isn’t speaking out for approval of a national plan to end gender-based and sexual violence, or for higher conviction rates for sexual offences, or across the board workplace and political party sexual harassment policies also men’s responsibility? Isn’t also publicly insisting on better from Dr Rowley?
His words may seem harmless, but they land on a nation full of girls and women still struggling to break silences about harm, and still hoping for men’s solidarity. Lack of consequences is part of something much greater, that gets far more dangerous. That is why a Prime Minister’s impunity must be taken seriously.
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