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Peter Espeut | Jamaica, we have a problem

Published:Friday | October 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM

When you live in a country that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, it should not be surprising that the victims span all age ranges, including teenage girls. All of us have been rightly outraged at the snuffing out of young, promising potentiality, and the commentariat has been focused on the murder aspect.

But is there more at work? Let me recount four of the recent cases:

It was reported on August 22 last that a 27-year-old Trinidadian schoolteacher working in Jamaica and a 19-year-old former medical student were charged in connection with the murder of 13-year-old Shanoya Wray, whose skeletal remains were found soaking in caustic soda in July at a house in Mona, St Andrew. Wray is a former student of the teacher, who is accused of having sex with her, killing her, and then, with the help of the former medical student, using chemicals to destroy the body.

On August 24, the burnt body of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis, otherwise called 'Princess', a student of Kingston Technical High School, was found dumped at the back of church premises in the 12th Street section of Arnett Gardens in St Andrew. Police say they suspect the child was attacked and raped, then her body was burnt and dumped in the area.

On August 28, the body of 25-year-old Khyhymn Campbell, with throat slashed, was found inside an igloo on the back seat of a car along the Winston Jones Highway in Manchester. Police say the body was nude and had what appeared to be cuts to the back and front of the neck and face. The throat had also been slashed, the police said. A 59-year-old deacon is the suspect.

Last Sunday, October 21, the body of 14-year-old Ocho Rios High School student Raven Wilson was found, with wounds to her head, in a garbage bag in bushes close to her home at Top Road, St Ann's Bay. She still had on her clothes, but they were torn, suggesting attempted rape.


Murder problem


So we definitely have a murder problem, but is our extraordinarily high homicide rate blinding us from seeing another huge national problem?

All four cases mentioned above were also sex crimes - either rape or carnal abuse. According to 2012 data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Jamaica is ranked number two in the top five nations with the most rape and carnal abuse cases in the world, with 34.1 rape and carnal abuse cases per 100,000 mid-year population. This works out to be 2.9 +- 0.9 (or 2.6 - 3.2) rape or carnal abuse cases per day!

I know that we live in fear because of our world-class murder rate, but in my view, we should be just as appalled, and especially our women must be just as fearful at our world-beating rate of sex crimes!

Jamaica is a highly sexualised society. Dancehall culture puts sex centre stage - and not in the context of love and a close and meaningful relationship - and pornography is readily available on every smartphone. Combine this with (according to psychiatrist Freddie Hickling) the finding that 40 per cent of Jamaicans have some kind of personality disorder, we are clearly a bomb that is exploding.

Our sex urges are normal human passions, like our appetites for food and drink, and part of growing up is learning how to control - indeed, to channel - them. This is not a religious thing: it is a human maturity thing - learning self-control and becoming a balanced person.

But we have no social mechanism to teach self-control, and so we have a high incidence of sex crimes, drug abuse, obesity and drunkenness.

Jamaica, we have a sex problem! What are we going to do about it? First, we have to admit it. Otherwise, we are in denial.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and development scientist. Email feedback to