UPDATE: Father Palacious has issued an apology - full story HERE
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEFENDING the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s (RBPF) advice that Junkanoo-goers “dress appropriately” to “avoid unwanted attention” and groping, Anglican Archdeacon James Palacious, pictured, said yesterday “if you are dressed like a prostitute, people will treat you like a prostitute.”
The statement of Father Palacious, vice-president of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC), came after the RBPF said in a recent post on Facebook about Junkanoo safety tips, “if you appropriately dress, it takes away the chance of being groped or touch in an inappropriate manner.”
Critics accused police of “victim blaming,” and promoting rape culture, prompting the law enforcement agency to amend its post to remove the offending comment and announce the matter is being reviewed internally.
But Father Palacious, who has courted controversy in the past on social issues, said critics are being “politically correct”.
“If one woman coming down the road is dressed in a business attire and another woman is dressed scantily, the fellas are more likely to grope the one who is scantily dressed than the one who is fully dressed,” he said. “If you are dressed like a prostitute, people will treat you like a prostitute.”
Father Palacious said the RBPF’s statement was poorly worded and the organisation, rather than withdrawing its remark, should have merely added a warning to men as well.
“You should tell men that women have a right to dress the way they wish and you don’t have freedom to grope them because of how they are dressed, but you should also be able to advise women about the consequences of dressing a certain way,” he said.
“People don’t want to hear the truth. Everyone is in to being politically correct but the police is just warning you about making yourself attractive to criminals. The police is right in saying if you dress in a particular way you are more likely to attract the scums and bums of the earth who might believe they have licence to touch you. The police should be able to warn that the more scantily you are dressed, the more you attract people to you and lure some of these weed heads, which is probably what you want to do, but that goes along with some unintentional consequences.”
Father Palacious said the RBPF could have defended its decision, adding: “The police is trying to build up good faith so they ain’t in to coming back and forth to try and justify a poorly worded, well-intentioned exhortation, and that’s all it was, an exhortation, not a condemnation.”
Father Palacious likened the advice police gave to other advice regularly issued by authorities.
“Police often warn people against putting their materials in visible places in their cars to avoid having it stolen,” he said. “They say don’t travel late at night, don’t go down dark alleys; you are free to do these things but police is just saying it’s not wise to do it.”
Father Palacious said while he personally does not like the way some women dress, everyone is entitled to wear what they see fit.
“I’d prefer women not to dress as provocatively as some of them do,” he said. “However, that is your right provided it’s not nudity, provided it doesn’t border on committing an infraction or indecent exposure. Do it, but just know that the more you do that the more likely groping is to happen.
“Even in churches people don’t know how to dress,” he added. “Go to some churches, some women look like they going to a cocktail party. Little strings, shoulder out, much more exposure than you would expect in a more conservative environment. From time to time I comment generally: learn how to dress when you go to church.”
Despite his support for women’s issues, including on hot-button topics like the criminalisation of marital rape and last year’s gender equality referendum, Father Palacious is no stranger to controversy on social matters involving women.
Earlier this year at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Majority Rule, he faced backlash after saying “black people breed too much” and Bahamian women “should stop having babies” they cannot afford.
He also called former Free National Movement (FNM) MP Richard Lightbourn’s proposal in 2016 for state-sponsored sterilisation of women with more than two children “most unfortunate,” but said he agreed with the principle of what Mr Lightbourn had said.