The Women’s Arm of the main opposition New Democratic Party says that St. Vincent and the Grenadines “can very fairly be described as having a rape culture”.
Sen. Marcia “Zita” Barnwell and Maia Eustace, both lawyers and members of the NDP’s Women’s Arm used their joint speech at their party’s rally in Kingstown last Wednesday to encourage the nation to “Raise your fist! Raise your voice!” against the abuse of women.
Barnwell told a rally that a few nights before, on their radio programme, a caller had said he thought that having a rape culture meant that when women walk the streets they would be raped.
Eustace, who is daughter of former opposition leader Arnhim Eustace, said that rape culture describes a society in which rape and other sexual offences against women occur, as well as domestic violence, and any form of oppression, domination of women, is just normalised and treated as if it is everyday and OK.
“Why do we describe St. Vincent as having a rape culture? We are not doing it to be alarmist. We are doing it because St. Vincent and the Grenadines, among other things, has the distinction of being the only country I have ever heard of to host a rape rally.”
Opposition supporters have branded as a rape rally, the event that the Unity Labour Party had in Kingstown some years ago in support of their leader, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, when a woman on his security detail accused him of raping her.
Eustace said that the United Nations has been watching SVG very closely.
“We disclosed data to you in 2015 that indicated that over a 10-year period ending in 2011, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was topping the charts of over 110 countries in relation to rape and sexual offences against women and children.”
Barnwell said she was doing research recently to show why the opposition has no confidence in the ULP administration.
The senator said that rape against girls under 15 and 13 is far greater than rape of adult women.
Eustace said that having sex with a girl under the age of 15 – the age of consent — is rape.
“There is no other name for it. A child cannot give consent,” Eustace said.
In SVG, if a girl under 15 consents to sex, it is considered “statutory rape”, since she has not reached the age of consent.
Eustace said that SVG has, for a long time, been on the radar of a lot of countries and international organisations in terms of the status of women.
“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.”
She was referring to the continued failure of Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves to respond to the allegation by former model Yugge Farrell that they were involved in an extramarital relationship.
Farrell spent three weeks in January in a psychiatric hospital after being brought before the court charged with using abusive language to the minister’s wife, Karen Duncan-Gonsalves.
“What that says implicitly is that it’s not a big deal. That is the normalising effect we spoke about,” Eustace said of Mr. Gonsalves’ continued silence on the allegation.
“He does not recognise or he refuses to acknowledge that this is a country where, more so than St. Lucia, where there was a 24-hour response when there was an allegation against a minister, [more so] than the Unites States, where man by man by man falling down as a result of allegations, and in the United Kingdom, the same is happening.
“In every instance, within 24 hours, there was a response. Why none for women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Why none for Yugge Farrell? Why none for Vincentians?”
Barnwell said that this is so because “silence is used as an instrument of oppression”.
She spoke about the in-studio conversation inadvertently broadcast on the ULP’s radio in which persons were making light of the Farrell- Gonsalves scandal.
Barnwell said that the ULP uses its radio station as an instrument for silencing women who do not sit well in their circle.
They use it “to trample on, denigrate, demean our women.
“They also use their press conferences to do the same thing. Women such as Kate, Luzette King, Vynnette Frederick, Miranda Wood, Jozette Bibby, Margaret Parsons, Michelle Andrews, all women.”
Eustace said that the women’s arm of the NDP wants people to know that while the ULP is accusing the NDP of politicising the issue, “Any political party that turns a blind eye to what is happening to women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is irresponsible and is complicit. So we have a duty to speak just as Camillo Gonsalves has a duty to respond.”
Eustace said that in court last Monday, when Farrell and Mrs. Gonsalves appeared for a hearing in the charges against Farrell, she saw two women, one in the witness box and the other in the dock.
“The accused, the virtual complainant. Yugge Farrell, Karen Gonsalves. It would be so easy to simplify this by describing one as the oppressor and the other as the victim. Yugge Farrell is nobody’s victim… And Karen Gonsalves is a woman too. They are both operating in a system that normalises our oppression. They are both victimised by that system in the way that every single woman here and within earshot of this microphone is victimised by it,” she told the rally at Heritage Square, Kingstown.
Barnwell said that women need to stand firm and say they cannot be silent.
The two NDP activists called on women to raise their fist and raise their voices.
“Let your voice be heard. Be encouraged,” Barnwell said.
“Men who are incensed by this, raise your fist too, because we have to do it together,” Eustace said.
The women led the crowd in a chant of
“Raise your fist! Raise your voice! Raise your fist! Raise your voice!”
Thank you, Kenton, for this coverage of a vitally important issue.
“Eustace said that having sex with a girl under the age of 15 the age of consent is rape.”
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 sexual relation with Camillo Gonsalves.
The inflammatory rhetoric spouted by Eustace, Barnwell, Bacchus-Baptiste, and others is reminiscent of the radical lesbian feminist view that all hoterosexual intercourse is rape.
Yes, SVG is still a very sexist society. But it is also a country where women are strong, forceful, independent, and resilent.
To say that all our women are victimised perpetuates, legitimizes, and devalues the victimization that actually occurs.
Thank you Mr. David!!
As an Attorney, it truly grieves me to see my colleagues, both Junior and Senior use the law for political mileage. Those who know better ought to do better. There is no link to her stating the law as it relates to the age of consent and the allegations. However, this is the mantra of the NDP and their mouthpieces. It is really unfortunate that most of society depends on the thought, utterances and actions of those they perceived as being authorities on certain issues.
Shame on Maia, Zita and Kay. We all took an oath as it relates to the law. Please represent the law properly and correctly!
THOSE WHO KNOW BETTER SHOULD DO BETTER!!!
Who is this C Ben David, he seems to have a lot to say…he is a part of every conversation and topics.
Shame Shame Shame on you Eustace and Barnwell.. twisting the facts…I would have sued you for libel.. you’re supporting someone who consented (Supposedly) to a relationship and then call it exploitation.. forgetting that a woman who is just as educated as yourself is a 100% victim…SHAME ON YOU TWO!
Does being a Lawyer or opportunist gives anyone the right to make such false/damaging statement about SVG? Could the ladies tell us or show us exactly where in our homeland this ‘Rape Culture’ is most prevalent. I’m disgusted!
1. C BEN-DAVID,
It was never suggested that the Yugge Farrell situation is comparable with statutory rape. To position the two quotes together like that is dishonest.
The high incidence of statutory rape in SVG is part of a very real context that justifies in part the description of SVG as having a rape culture — a society that normalizes rape and other behaviors that subjugate women. So too do the high incidence of rape and sexual assault, the shelving of the Domestic Violence Bill for 8 years, SVG’s #1 ranking by the UN for rape and sexual offenses per capita by the UN, the vile characterizations of a woman opposition political candidate, the institutionalized indifference of police to complaints of women and children victims of domestic abuse and sexual offenses and yes! the hosting of a rape rally. These are among several issues that paint the context in which women operate in SVG.
And against that specific Vincy backdrop, there is therefore a heavier, more urgent responsibility to treat with ANY issue disproportionately affecting Vincentian women — like allegations of sexual exploitation — very seriously. That very context behooves anyone, but particularly anyone in a position of responsibility, to respond rather than dismiss it.
Nowhere has it been suggested that Farrell was raped. But if you are so willing to ignore the considerable power differential of an alleged Farrell/Gonsalves relationship, then you cannot discourse on exploitation. Pity.
Where one is in chains we are all in chains is easily received wisdom. Try being a woman in SVG — especially one allied to a political party — saying that where a number of women are victimized, all women are victimized. C Ben-David charges such women with denying women’s strength, force, independence and resilience. Perhaps you would better appreciate the correlation between self and collective if instead of Vincentian women Barnwell and Eustace had said Small Island Developing States, Black American men or ACP banana farmers. The fact is that Vincentian women demonstrate resilience, force, strength and independence in the face of the normalization of sexual harassment, rape, exploitation of women.
Your claim to recognise that SVG is still a very sexist society starkly contrasts with your glib attack of the issues raised by Barnwell and Eustace.
You’ve said: “There is no link to her stating the law as it relates to the age of consent and the allegations.” You are right that there is no link. You are wrong in claiming that she said there was.
What about the other women victims in all this? The Minister’s wife and the slanderous name calling of women in the videos. Don’t they deserve redress too as a woman? Seems like the opposition’s true motive was to use the poor to gain political mileage. Maybe they created this for attention because they are unable to win an election based on real issues.. the issue is now moot…is this all you have?
This rape and sexual exploitation issue in vincy against women and children has been going on for ages lets not make it a political vendatta however i think its time for all of us to open our eyes watch our children more closely teach them about the wrongfulness of sexual abuse both boys and girls.sex ed should be instilled at home and school from an early age because i think while growing up most children in this country thinks that its ok for a guy or girl to touch their privates, to see them naked etc even siblings and family friends.Its time we all be very strict and vigilant around our children telling them not be silent is the key break the silence.sexusl abuse are secrets we should never keep.
There is something called INFERENCE. Why else were they used? It’s not rocket science, though I am not a rocket scientist.
Let me try this again….
Along with the UN data on rape and sexual offenses (which youve ignored) and the other examples they used, they were setting the CONTEXT against which a response to any allegation of sexual exploitation becomes urgent.
If you still dont understand, thats okay. Try visualization. Imagine the irresponsible party were Donald Trump instead of Camillo Gonsalves. Do you get it now? And if that still doesnt work, I understand there are terrific and highly qualified specialists at the Mental Health Center in Glen eager to assist anyone with the appearance of mental impairment.
Did you listen to the Barnwell/Eustace presentation youre railing against? They spoke about Karen Duncan Gonsalves (the Ministers spouse) and said that she, like Farrell, operates in a system that predisposes women to victimization. If youre so convinced that the Opposition is doing this for political gain, why arent you calling on the National Council of Women and other stakeholders to speak up on Farrells behalf? Or is your only concern the impact of this upon the ULP? Why arent you using this space to critique the discussion on womens rights in SVG? And wouldnt you be concerned about any opposition party in any country that did not speak about any issue of national and now global concern on the part of the victimized?
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