By Malcolm Strachan
AFTER Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell made crass comments about the increase in rapes in 2018, thousands of us must have had to pick our jaws up off the floor as he ignored his ministry’s role – deeming it an issue that falls solely under national security.
We could not believe our eyes and ears as he parted the microphones like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Though Campbell was thought by many to be an unlikely choice to lead this portfolio, he at least seemed to be an upgrade in personality from the former Minister of Social Services, Lanisha Rolle. Even with this blunder, he still is.
However, some mistakes are very costly. And this much we should expect him to learn, painfully. Even though he offered an apology and explanation, the majority of the populace are not that forgiving.
We live in a chauvinistic society and the rights of our sisters, mothers and daughters are not viewed as having the same weight as men by many.
How easily men forget that these are our nurturers, our confidantes and in many cases the reason we work so hard. We tend not to exhibit the loyalty that should always be present.
While we should not crucify Campbell - as his apology seemed sincere and it was evident he wanted to avoid some drama within Cabinet - his mistake is still reflective of an overarching societal issue.
Scholars past and present have long sought to popularise the connections between gender inequality and rape. From the foundations of feminist theory, many have studied how gender inequality leads to discrimination, sexual objectification, oppression and abuse.
As one academic put it over four decades ago: “Eradicating rape requires getting rid of the power discrepancy between men and women, because abuse of power flows from unequal power.”
Yet, while a great deal of evidence is no further than a mouse click away, we still promote an archaically oppressive tradition. The gender equality referendum proved this much.
It’s just not that big of an issue, it seems – not yet at least.
Our own prime minister, while in opposition, neglected to take a firm position on the gender equality referendum, telling citizens to vote their conscience. As much of a hot button issue gender inequality is around the world, the citizenry, as well as the politicians, allowed it to be hijacked by an anti-immigration agenda.
It may have singlehandedly been one of the most disappointing occasions to be a Bahamian – listening to not just men - and even more alarming, women - dumb down the conversation. In the worst way possible, it was incredible to witness.
Worse, we are still only focusing on the symptoms – refusing to attack the entire system – much like the approach we tend to use to fix an issue in our country. This leads me to recall a post on social media, where a Bahamian male made a public service announcement to Bahamian women advising them on what they should do if they did not want to be “raped or robbed”.
While the gentleman may have intended his caution to come from a good place, a female commenter said it perfectly: “Please advise Bahamian men to stop raping and robbing Bahamian women!” – an ode to the fact that women shouldn’t have to have the added burden of protecting themselves from sexual violence.
With any problem of this magnitude, the most effective way to arrive at a solution is to work backwards.
Why do Bahamian males so callously take advantage of our female counterparts? What gives us the right?
Moreover, how are we going to address this and aggressively attack the systemic issues that lead to these violent crimes?
Typically, the first mode of action is a top-down approach where tougher legislation is put in place to dissuade perpetrators. Unfortunately, criminals don’t commit an act thinking they will get caught. Also, it is not enough that someone capable of such a terrible crime will not do so just because he is afraid of the legal ramifications.
Hence, a bottom-up approach must also be applied – starting right in our homes and schools. Young boys and girls must be taught the right way to interact with each other. Likewise, adults must be mindful of the tone we set for the younger generation.
Hopefully, as an act of redemption, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
As a first order of business, he should be scouring the international community to find case studies from countries that have seen a decrease in gender-based violence and figure out ways where we can lean on their wisdom. Certainly, he ought to know after the blowback he received that this is a matter the Bahamian people feel strongly about.
While it will be the national security ministry’s job to bring forth policies to make us all safer, the braintrust at social services and perhaps even the ministry of education will need to develop and implement strategies that will address the root causes of such issues.
The Bahamas is not isolated on this issue. Even just across the water, the US president’s own comments on rape show an alarming attitude towards women. Nonetheless, the size of your house matters not when it comes to keeping your yard clean.