Wed | Dec 19, 2018

Mark Wignall | Free sex is rape

Published:Sunday | September 30, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Bianca is a pretty 22-year-old young woman who is as cynical about life as a slug is about table salt deliberately sprinkled on it.

"Free sex is rape," she said to me weeks ago, and I asked her to give me a fuller explanation. "My mother have five of us. Is only me get some high-school education. My father float in and float out, mostly out. Him and my mother don't get along, but if him do a likkle contract work and make some money, mi mother mek him come over and sleep wid her. At least she will have some cash fi do har hair later."

We were in an area close to Constant Spring where Bianca lives. It is a lane that snakes away from the main road and ends at the edge of a gully. After that, there is no place to go, and so it appears socially and economically for many of the residents living there. Rusted zinc fences form smaller tributaries of roads until they, too, end up at an end of no further entrance.

"Explain your statement. Remember, I had asked you if you have a boyfriend and a steady relationship. So what is this about 'free sex is rape'?" I asked.

"Mi have four CSEC subjects and is five year now I don't hold a steady job. Is just barmaid work or force fi go Negril and hustle mi body. I hate it, every minute of it, but it feed mi son. Is him gwine break the cycle dat me and you just talk bout a while ago."

Seventeen-year-old Meghan lives farther north and has her own bedroom. Next to hers is her brother's, and one room is fully furnished but empty. That is where her father had his den and office. Her mother and father divorced five years ago and it did not move a muscle on Meghan's face.

"I saw it coming. My friends at school who would visit saw it coming, and I am sure my mother's boyfriend saw it coming. So, what's the big deal?" she says, not a smile in sight.

Bianca lives in a garrison pocket. Meghan lives in a fancy, gated community uptown. Bianca has a passport and it indicates that she has never left Jamaica. Meghan travels at least four times per year.

According to Rascut, a deportee who left Jamaica at 11 and was unceremoniously sent back at 30 (for drug and gun crimes), all the youth want is "big phone, big car and big house but dem want it right away. Dem not prepared to invest 20 year fi get all dem tings deh. All a dem want it now, and is only illegal tings can get dem dat. Dem haffi have dem gun."

 

THE SEX ECONOMY

 

According to Bianca, who lives in a dense, poverty-stricken area, "When yu giving it away to a man fi free, yu setting back yuself and mashing up yu body. Dat is like sex without consent because remember now, when yu in di ghetto, is mostly food and money on yu mind. If yu still hungry and bruk after, yu end up jus like if a man rape yu, and dat happen to me three time."

Sadly, there are young schoolgirls who mostly attend high schools that are among the least favoured, and most of their lives are centred around browsing trivia, sex, and gore on their smartphones. They are there at dances as the time creeps from Saturday night to Sunday morning. And so are their mothers. It is not necessarily a rarity that the mother and daughter ARE the focus of one man for sexual favours.

Much has been the commentary on zones of special operations and limited states of emergency. The biggest concerns are, (1) to what extent will social programmes, unfurled over the last eight or nine months, change the behaviour of people with a built-in distrust of authority solidified over many generations?

And (2), once these operations end, as end they must, will social programmes change the mindset of the criminals still lurking as well as that of the law-abiding citizens living in an unholy relationship with hope?

If violence breaks out in the same communities, or new ones, will new operations be launched to stave off the immediate danger of rampant criminality and will they be sustainable?

For those who see the change from GSAT to PEP in purely political terms, they need to chill out and take two pills of honesty. While I have long held the belief that our educational system is designed mostly along the lines of keeping open a long line of cheap labour available to our degraded manufacturing base and channelling the really good jobs to the service sector, I have also felt that there are policymakers among us who would like to see our most vulnerable people break out of their miasma of poverty of the mind and the body.

Surely, it cannot be that our young women from the wrong side of the educational and social tracks must be caught up in seeing their best hopes of the next meal in who they sleep with tonight.

 

SOME WILL MAKE IT, SOME WON'T

 

He is a senior member of Parliament, but we are no longer as close as we were once. He is well respected among his political tribe, but his skin is thin, and he doesn't respond well to criticism from the press.

Years ago when we would meet at least twice per month in mostly off-the-record settings where he would hope that I use those meetings to write what he wanted non-attribution to, he said to me, "We," with his thumb firmly against his chest, "have messed up so much that now, any politician, whether you are JLP or PNP, know that in any policy plan or spending at budget time, the general understanding is that we have to save some people and abandon many. There is never enough to go around."

As he explained: "We have to choose an age group and draw a line and enshrine as policy that say we are saving this next generation. Then we skilfully hide that large section of the population that we have to abandon. Give out a few goodies and stuff to make people feel good in the week after the announcement."

Surely, our politicians must know that in changing from GSAT to PEP, the weakest link is the teaching profession, but even there, hard choices must be made. Nothing significant will change in how the society arranges its affairs, so it is mostly those with economic power who will get the best education.

Some politicians would have been aware of their own class struggles before they began to 'serve', but they also know that political power is mostly about making choices. It is either PNP time or JLP time, or uptown time with downtown time, celebrated in caricature.

"We cannot openly tell the people the truth. And all parties in opposition know it. But they are forced to play games until it is their time in the barrel. The fact is, the police will have to deal with those who are generationally sociopathic. We will throw some PATH money at many in the educational system until the next review is done and the expected failures are announced.

"Those who will make it from the primary system to the best high schools to university are those who always made it. What is hoped is that a little more of the poorer people make it. But only as something we never expected."

My politician friend is in the exit ward now, but I suspect his viewpoints are pretty much the same.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator.

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.