EDITOR, The Tribune.
A woman while walking to the bus stop was kidnapped and rape by an unknown assailant, a woman was raped in her home by an intruder, these are just a few of the recent reported rape cases in this country. Back in 2020, “reports of sexual offences increased by 34% with 213 cases, compared to 159 in 2019. These offences include rape, unlawful sexual intercourse and attempted rape”, according to the Commissioner’s nationwide crime statistics report. Since then there have been increasingly more incidents of rape and sexual assault cases.
In the midst of this pandemic, there is a rape endemic. Our women and girls are crying out for help!
Rape is a very serious crime, and no rape is justifiable. Regardless of a woman’s actions, no woman deserves to be physically, verbally or sexually abused. A woman’s body, appearance, or her clothes are not invitations for rape or any form of sexual violence. Amnesty International 2013 periodic review recommendation regarding violence against women called upon the government of The Bahamas, “To ensure that the proposed strategic plan to address sexual violence includes elements of prevention, investigation and punishment of acts of violence, but also service provision and redress for victims, awareness raising, education and training, and systematic data collection and research.” While there are some efforts being made to bring about awareness, yet not enough is being done to curtail this endemic.
We must change our cultural tendency of victim-blaming. It is not only offensive and traumatising, but it further decreases the likelihood that victims will seek help and support due to fear of being further shamed or judged. And as long as there are those within our society who trivialize rape, normalize sexual violence, embolden perpetrators, and put the blame on the victim instead of the perpetrator, the rape culture will continue to persist in this country.
An article in The Tribune newspaper back in February 2016 as reported by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence mentioned, “The Bahamas leads the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes. The issue of rape, its magnitude and impact in the country demands further attention. The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape per capita in the Caribbean”. This report is not only appalling, but extremely troubling for any woman or girl living in this country.
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr Ban Ki-moon stated, “There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”
The truth is that Rape Culture in our country is perpetuated in so many ways such as: the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, glamorization of sexual violence, disregard of women’s rights and safety, victim-blaming, trivializing sexual assault, sexually explicit jokes, tolerance of sexual harassment, male promiscuity.
Our culture of publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, and an individual’s motives. Our tolerance of gender-base violence in movies and on television, defining and generalizing “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive and “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive, assuming only promiscuous women get raped, refusing to take rape accusations seriously and the all too famous statement, teaching women to avoid getting raped. All of which are extremely dangerous and need to stop!
Victims of rape are our families, friends and loved ones. Rape victims are young and old, rich and poor, short and tall, educated and uneducated. Women can be raped regardless of their physical attributes such as the nationality, skin colour, body size, facial features, hair style, clothing, socio-economic status or location. Although men and boys are victims of rape, it is women and girls who are overwhelmingly affected. Like everyone, human - being women and girls - have the right to live in a safe and healthy environment, free from violence.
To eliminate this crime against women and children requires all stakeholders, not just the government or law enforcement, but the entire community, our churches, the media, community representatives and private sectors.
We must build a society free from all forms of violence especially against all women and girls, from today let us put an end to rape and rape culture by taking it seriously, speaking up against abuse and holding perpetrators accountable.
Educate our men and boys about respecting and protecting our women and girls. Together, we can build a safe society where women no longer feel unsafe walking any hour of the day or night or being alone in their homes.
We must fight to End Rape, and End Rape Culture!
Advocate, Founder 242 Domestic Violence Support Network Inc.
January 8, 2022.