Sunday, 19 March 2017

Bodies, Sexualities and Carnival

Carnival at the University of the West Indies, (UWI), Mona Campus, has grown in popularity since the festival was first introduced to Jamaica in the early 1950’s by students from across the Caribbean. Traditionally, carnival is celebrated the week before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of the Lenten Season. Interestingly, the space UWI Carnival occupies does not only provide entertainment and fun for the revelers in general, many agree that the spirit of carnival has given a voice to those on the fringes of society, especially in a context of homophobia and transphobia culture in the wider society. It can be argued that carnival brings together a wide cross section of the Jamaican society who otherwise would not have necessarily cross paths. While it is true that those who are immensely engaged in the merry- making tend to be from the middle class, there is no denying the fact that there is a convergence of social classes, especially for the Last Lap, which customarily takes places on the Ring Road of the University of the West Indies Campus. Additionally, it is believed that UWI carnival creates a safe space for those who see themselves as being different as it relates to their sexuality and sexual orientation.  Carnival, whether on the university campus or in general obscures the issues of sexuality, social class, education among other social indicators. Paradoxically, for a few hours there is an inclusiveness and tolerance towards the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as the only label of importance that matters at carnival is that of reveler. There is clearly evidence of androgynous behavior at most if not all carnivals, UWI carnival being no exception, as students, past students and well wishers observe and participate in this festivity of dancing, binge drinking with gyrating sweaty bodies aboard and behind big decorated trucks slowly moving  around the Ring Road amidst the numerous stops. For the most part those in scantily clad costumes are in the minority, yet this does not deter them from entertaining the crowd and posing of pictures for many spectators and photographers. It has become commonplace to see representatives from the various halls of residence and from numerous Caribbean islands along the route as they proudly walk with flags waving as a mark of identification and pride.  There are students from islands, such as, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Guyana.  Fascinatingly, along the Ring Road close to the Phillip Sherlock Centre there is the usual water trunk where revelers are sprayed as they approach the vicinity. The revelers are usually geared up as they walk by and are drenched by the forcefulness of the water hose, never missing a beat to the pulsating rhythm of the soca kings and queens of the Caribbean.  The carnival air at UWI is always electrifying and permeated by marijuana smoking males, with a few females too, some barely legal to vote, while members of the security forces smartly look on to ensure the order. The music is predominantly calypso; however, other genres of music, namely, dancehall can be heard blaring from slow moving flat bed trucks. The music tends to be sexually explicit and lewd and oftentimes describe the female anatomy in demeaning ways. Unbelievably, those bawdy comments are of little or no concern to the many revelers, many of whom are females who are there for one purpose and that is to have fun, gyrate, and “get on bad”. Finally, carnival at the University of the West Indies continues to serve as a catalyst for Caribbean integration and cooperation as students from almost all Caribbean islands come together to plan and execute this annual festival in a project of love.
Wayne Campbell
#LGBT #music #marijuana #Caribbean #UWICarnival2017 #sexuality #homophobia #culture #tolerance #education #dancehall

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Be Bold For Change

The international community paused on March 8 to acknowledge the social, political, cultural, economic achievements of women globally as well as to encourage gender parity. The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is “Be Bold For Change”.
In many societies women are discriminated against and their voice given a back seat. Disturbingly, in some countries the female fetus is often aborted as many families view girls as a burden on the economics of the family and therefore no preparation of very little is made for girls. The discrimination of girls and women globally is rooted in a patriarchal system in which the male gender is given pride of place along with privileges and benefits attached to being male. Unfortunately, many men still identify women through sexist lenses for the sole purpose of sexual gratification. The culture of entitlement to female bodies served on a platter for men’s pleasure must be interrogated and replaced. It bears thought that sexual abuse, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances are only some of the issues girls and women face daily.
View Of Entitlement
This view by men to the entitlement to the female body serves as a catalyst for, among other things, the continuation of the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation of thousands of women and girls across the world each year. This violation of women’s human rights has left numerous women scarred both physically as well as psychologically. In an informal online survey carried out recently, women identified safety as being among the most pressing issues they face. In Jamaica, the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) is of utmost importance given the fact that many of our womenfolk have been under attack from men in recent times. In order to empower women and girls they must first feel a sense of safety regardless of their socio-economic class. This sense of security must be experience both in the public and private sphere. It only through having more women putting themselves forward for leadership that those societies will be able to break free from the cultural and historic discriminations which have held back so many women. Interestingly, except for the Nordic countries, as well as, Rwanda, female participation in governance in woefully lacking. Women are generally discouraged from entering politics and those who do enter must bear the brunt of unpleasant, sexist and unkind remarks. The society must encourage women to enter business and facilitate easy financing of same. According to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres "closing the gender gap in employment could add US$12trillion to the global GDP by 2025". We can and should do more work towards a more inclusive and gender equal society. There needs to be more engagement of boys and men in discussions on gender relations. At times we are tempted to think that by excluding men from the discourse pertaining to gender and interpersonal relationships that the narrative surrounding women will improve. We need to encourage and foster a culture of conflict resolution in order to arrive at solutions for many relationships which have gone bad. Men need to give more support both in practical as well as in symbolic terms to the concerns and plight of women. Gender equality is pivotal to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed to by almost all world leaders to tackle the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 speaks specifically to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It is only through attaining financial stability that women are going to free themselves from the vices and mechanisms which are in place to keep them dependent upon men. In being “Be Bold for Change” we need to promote a society and indeed a world in which women’s rights are human rights. In wishing my sisters happy international women’s day I leave the words of Mae Jemison “Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live”.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Protecting Our Senior Citizens

“Too many of the elderly do not have the family or the communal attachments necessary to feel valued; too many are widowed or otherwise alone; too many live in surroundings where they are essentially without the companionship necessary to stimulate a mind in danger of deteriorating” – Sherwin B. Nuland
It is a topic we rarely speak about in this ‘conservative’ society. The Jamaican society for the most part still has not accepted the practice of placing the elderly in homes or infirmaries. There is a tendency and much support to care for the elderly and infirmed within the confines of the home. There is still much inclination, associated especially in some circles, to look down on those families who place their elderly members in old age homes. Notwithstanding this, one of the more common types of nursing home abuse is sexual abuse. Disturbingly, elderly nursing home residents make easy targets for sexual predators due to the fact that they are often weak and defenseless. Sexual abuse is any form of non-consensual contact, including unwanted or inappropriate touching, rape, sodomy, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment.    
Sexual abuse of elderly in nursing homes can occur in numerous circumstances. This type of abuse can come from a staff employee, another resident, a stranger or even a family member.   
Sexual abuse of a nursing home resident by a staff employee often occurs due to the failure of the nursing home to conduct background checks on the employee. The truth is many of these jobs are low skilled, long hours and no certification posts.  The lack of mandatory formal training to care for the elderly is a cause for concern and must be addressed with a sense of urgency to safeguard against the potential for abuse among this vulnerable sub-group of the population. Many nursing home residents require assistance in bathing, getting dress and going to the bathroom, this in and of itself creates opportunity for persons who are inclined to sexually abuse these residents. Many nursing homes tend to cater to both males and females. In circumstances where this co-ed exists it is very likely that the normal male and female relationship will develop, unfortunately this situation can set the stage for the abuse of one resident by another. Our elderly population placed in nursing homes requires supervision and should be encouraged to report cases of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse by a stranger oftentimes occurs because nursing homes tend to be understaffed and lack adequately supervision. This may give rise to strangers having access to the said premises and to residents of such facilities. When an individual is placed in a nursing home the spouse of that person may miss the intimacy of the relationship both shared, however, in instances where the resident’s mental or physical condition disallow consensual sexual relations between husband and wife, the sexual act may reach to the realm of sexual abuse. Data from 2011 census indicates that Jamaica’s population is ageing with some 305,000 at the age of 60 years and older. Additionally, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) stated that the fastest growing cohort of the population was the 65 years and older age group. Interestingly, the life expectancy rate of women exceeds that of men; as a result women are at a higher risk of sexual abuse since they live longer. There are some common signs we can look for which may indicate that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home.  For example, unexplained difficulty with walking or sitting, unexplained sexually transmitted disease of genital infection, the presence of sperm in the vagina or anus and or the presence of  fear, stress anxiety when a particular staff member approaches to give assistance with bathing, dressing or toileting. Sadly, in many societies senior citizens are often treated like second class. There needs to be partnership between the State and owners of private nursing homes to develop best practices regarding the training, operation and working conditions of employees. Senior citizens must be productively engaged regardless of their social status in the society. The time has come for the society to come to grips regarding the negative cultural attitudes surrounding the value or lack thereof we place on our senior citizens in order to have a more inclusive society in which everyone is valued.  Given advances in technology and medicine we too will likely live to that age where we will require care and assistance. We need to demand that our senior citizens are well taken care of whether in or out of nursing homes.  As a society we need to get more involved in the proper care and protection of our elderly.  The society needs to work towards a zero tolerance approach regarding the sexual abuse of our senior citizens.
In the words of Isaiah 46:4  Even to your old age and grey hairs, I am he; I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Crime: A Hindrance to National Development

"Peace cannot be kept be force; it can only be achieved by understanding".- Albert Einstein 
According to police statistics, 1350 Jamaicans were murdered in 2016. Despite the downward trend of other crimes, such as rape, aggravated assault and robbery, the murder rate for the island has been rather troubling to say the least. Sadly, successive governments over the years have been unable to address the island’s spiraling crime rate. According to police data the murder rate in 2016 was an 11 per cent increase over 2015. Yet, despite the doom and gloom there was a bright spot for the community of August Town which recorded zero murders in 2016. The environs of August Town at one time had a reputation of crime and violence so much so that people were afraid to venture into the area. A number of stakeholders at the time sought it appropriate to invest their time and money in order to transform what was once considered a high crime ridden area. In 2008 a peace agreement was signed and the fruits of that agreement were realized eight years later in 2016 which saw zero murders. There are many lessons from this blueprint. This transformation has showed us that there is no community in Jamaica which cannot be saved and changed into a peaceful and law-abiding settlement. The August Town model must be replicated across all those areas which are constantly being plagued by murders in which people live in fear and in which public play areas are empty from the voices of children having fun. Clearly the success in August Town was not achieved by the wave of a magic wand. The collaborative efforts of the citizenry, government through social intervention programmes, the University of the West Indies, as well as the Peace Management Initiative all played a part in achieving this accomplishment. We cannot underestimate the power of citizen participation and involvement in the fight against crime.  Our security forces need to invest more time and resources in building trust and engaging in collaborative efforts if as a society we are going to win the war against crime and violence.
In spite of the praises to the peace builders of the community of August Town we now must ask the question, where did all those barking guns go? A significant part of this model is missing. Disturbingly, since the “Get the Guns” campaign was launched in September of 2015 more than 887 illegal firearms and 12,000 rounds of ammunition have been removed from the streets, this according to the Jamaica Constabulary Force. According to the Igarape Institute, a Brazilian based think tank, 14, 968 Jamaicans were murdered from 2005-2014. Sadly, we seem helpless in preventing illegal guns from entering the country. We need to have a “Secure Our Borders” campaign in order to have sustainable peace and development. There is an apparent link between crime, unemployment and youthfulness. It can be argued that crime to a great extent is a social construct existing in situations of abject poverty and diminished opportunities. Too many of our youths, especially young men are not engaged adequately, regrettably this lack of meaningful engagement affects even those males in the education system. Gender is often referenced to the notions of socially constructed ideas of masculinity and femininity. The issue of masculinity and its link to criminal behavior is well researched in the arena of criminological thought. The society continues to send mixed signals regarding the importance of acquiring an education, when the reality for a significant number of young men runs counter to that of society. Regrettably, many schools have become recruitment centers for boys to join gangs as well as girls.  As a society we have nurtured and facilitated a culture in which the informal economy often through illicit means rewards handsomely. The quasi-economy is not concerned about academic qualification and book smarts and the waiting list to enter keeps growing each year.  The society has ignored the interest of boys in crafting educational policies to a large extent and now we are reaping the fruits thereof.  We have not learned our lessons and as a result we continue to implement similar policies with the hope of getting a different outcome. The time has come for us to re-visit how we examine crime plans with the view to decrease the island murder rate considerably. A society which is unable to control crime and violence puts its very own democracy at risk especially since social upheaval is always present as its citizenry search for justice.  Let us be reminded that a model for economic growth and development cannot thrive and or be sustained in a crime laden environment. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), estimates that the direct annual cost of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is at $US261 billion or 3.55 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Just imagine the infrastructural development that could result if we could reduce crime and violence.
Towards A Solution                                                                                                          
We need to revisit how we implement crime fighting measures. Each Member of Parliament should have a crime plan for his or her constituency. The crime plans at the community level should have set goals and objectives in which a zero murder rate is the ultimate target. The salary of each Member of Parliament should be tied to this crime plan. If the targets are met the MP should receive an increase in his/her salary at the end of the year, conversely, if the targets are not met the MP’s salary should remain as it, in order words we should performance pay for Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament must be held accountable for the peace and security in the areas in which they represent.  It cannot be business as per usual for 2017 regarding fighting crime. In 2013, the World Bank ranked Jamaica as among the worst homicide rates with 45 murders per 100,000. A high crime rate in any society runs counter to sustainable development and good governance. All stakeholders must come together and redouble their efforts to change this reality and create a new model regarding the safety and security of our people. In the words of Bobby Scott, we can play politics, or we can reduce crime.  
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.