Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Prostituting research

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Omar Sweeney, managing director of JSIF.

In case you missed it, let me catch you up quickly.

Just over a week ago, Omar Sweeney, managing director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), announced that 85 per cent of young women in Mount Salem were involved in some form of prostitution.

Mount Salem is the first declared zone of special operations, and Sweeney is the one heading up the social-intervention campaign that's supposed to drastically turn around the community.

Now a big bump is going to grow on Mr Sweeney's eye because no sooner had he made the statement about the young ladies being young ladies of the night, only days later, he had to take it back.

What Sweeney announced was extrapolated from research carried out by the Social Development Commission. Except that he kinda fuddled the figures. So the clean-up crew at JSIF had to make clarifications. Many clarifications.

- What he announced as 85 per cent was actually corrected by JSIF to be 70 per cent.

- What he described as 'young women' were actually teenage girls.

- What he stated as fact was actually the perception of a small group of 46 community members.

- None of the 46 actually admitted to themselves being part of the 70 per cent.

- According to JSIF, the girls weren't prostitutes per se. They just had sex for money - and things.

Incidentally, the study also revealed that 30 per cent of boys were similarly engaged in the penis-for-profit trade.

Before and after the clarification, Mount Salem ladies were pissed. And if someone called me a prostitute, I'd be pissed, too.

Say I did believe the findings (which I don't), let's ask some really important questions?

1. Who are these teenage girls sleeping with and why aren't those men in prison?

Anybody sleeping with a teenage girl should have several seats in Her Majesty's jail for carnal abuse and/or statutory rape. If the research was really meant to inform change, a finding like this should have automatically raised a loud alarm with the Child Development Agency and the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offices and Child Abuse for drastic and immediate action. Seventy per cent of Mount Salem girls should be in protective care and some paedophiles should be rotting behind bars. Does nobody see that? Does nobody see the urgency of that? Or was this another exercise in information gathering?

2. Two years ago, you suspected that seven out of 10 teenage girls in one community were engaging in soft prostitution and that didn't call down crowd?

Were these numbers true, every counsellor on the island should take up residency in Mount Salem. This year's National Leadership Prayer Breakfast should have been dedicated to rebuking the devil out of the little girls. These girls would need the help of both Church and State to turn their lives around.

If seven out of 10 females, let alone teenage females on my street, were bartering their vaginas, I'd want a state of emergency declared. Lock it down. Free condoms and STI testing. It would be a different kind of get the guns. #GunInnaPanty.

3. What is this perception index BS?

The findings of the focus group were really based on gut feelings. A room of 46 community members, half of whom may have passed their best-before date, were asked to speculate which lickle girls dem feel having sex and taking things from man. And pretty much, that's how the 70 per cent was derived. I find everything wrong with that, especially if it's going to then be repeated as gospel, and plans are going to be hatched around it as if it were gospel.

What to some may seem like a tiny exaggeration by Mr Sweeney has highlighted a gaping hole. It's fundamentally an issue with research; how we conduct it, and what we do with the findings. This community-research undertaking, and so many others, run the risk of becoming just another meaningless, soon-to-be-shelved waste of tax dollars and time.

Findings like what have been reported should instantly trigger a red flag that says either something's terribly wrong in this community or my numbers are terribly wrong. Either way, suppm nuh right!

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.