Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Religious fundamentalists' queer morality harming boys

Published:Thursday | February 16, 2017 | 2:00 AM

If we agree that boys are also raped, why is it so difficult for us to call it what it is? Why do we insist on referring to it as something else and pretend that it's not rape, and that increasing the penalty for grievous sexual assault would be the way to address a grave problem and the inadequacies in the law?

It's interesting that we are not protesting against those individuals, including those involved in the Love March Movement, Lawyers Christian Fellowship and Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, who are working to derail the efforts of the Parliament and well-thinking Jamaicans to more accurately define rape in the Sexual Offences Act. A more accurate definition of rape would ensure that all the ways in which our children are being violated are recognised as rape by law. It would ensure that there is no difference in the punishment handed down to a rapist because of the sex of the child (currently a man who rapes a boy gets a lesser sentence than one who rapes a girl).

It's unthinkable that people are against full and equal protection for our children. Who do we intend to protect? Is it our boys and girls, or are people merely interested in protecting the status quo of their very queer morality?

I sincerely hope that the members of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament will focus on the matter at hand - full and equal protection for all Jamaicans, especially our women and children who are disproportionately affected. If nothing else, parliamentarians should ensure that when the review of the Sexual Offences Act, which is under way, is complete, that rape of boys be recognised in our law as well. To do otherwise would be foolish and most shameful. It would be a clear indication that they continue to abdicate their responsibilities to protect our children from harm and ensure they can secure justice when their rights are infringed. It would suggest how unfit they are to hold such offices if they are unwilling to do what is right.

 

SOCIETAL REALITY

 

It's time we be honest with ourselves. It's time we face the truth and act accordingly. The truth is, rape of males - whether they are boys or grown men - is a reality in our society and there is absolutely no point pussyfooting around this fact. We can't keep skirting around these issues to appease the handful of crusaders who are preoccupied with anal intercourse while pretending they want a healthy society.

I suspect, as Dr Rohan Lewis from the University of Technology (UTech) Jamaica says, 'If you agree that there can be FORCED, non-consensual sex between males, by that logic you concede that some sex between males can be free and consensual. In this democracy, some people don't wish for that to be accepted."

I have also seen, quite disturbingly, reference to boys who are being raped and sexually abused as well as trafficked as 'men who have sex with men' by researchers. What a horrifying conflation and misuse of terms to describe boys, or anyone for that matter, who are being forced into sex. Oddly, there is nary a concern about the growing body of research with such ridiculously inaccurate references.

I am pleased with the wave of activism taking place in relation to the issue of rape and other forms of sexual violence and abuse, particularly those perpetrated against women and children (which has been the focus since December). Groups such as the Tambourine Army has been established. They will host a National Survivor Empowerment March in solidarity with the #LifeInLeggings movement. Email tambourinearmy@gmail.com for details or join them. Another fascinating initiative is the online protest called #RespectAndProtectJA that is gaining much traction uptown and downtown.

Jamaicans for Justice has an excellent resource online with information about process, deliberations of the Joint Select Committee, and submissions made, among other things, which is accessible at jamaicansforjustice.org/Sexual

OffencesReview/

I encourage everyone to join the movement as we seek to arrest the scourge of rape and sexual violence perpetrated against brothers and sisters. We have a responsibility to protect each other. Let's not neglect our children by holding ourselves hostage to the queer morality and convenient concerns of religious fundamentalists.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.