Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Letter of the Day: Boys face sex crimes, too

Published:Friday | June 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Girls are not the only ones affected by sexual violence in Jamaica. Some of the information in the current national awareness campaigns regarding child endangerments needs to be adjusted to reflect this. Boys, and even men, are similarly abused. It is all about power, control and domination.

What is not highlighted in the current narrative is how cultural and social attitudes have fostered, over time, a strong sense in which men and boys who are abused are also further victimised. They are shamed into believing it is their fault and that they should have been man enough to defend themselves. Or, worse. They enjoyed it.

The often insidious and rarely acknowledged values promoted throughout the society convey a gendered sense of power and control which is also very much at the heart of many of the problems that inform our current dilemma. Men in patriarchal cultures like Jamaica's, generally, feel they own women and should have unmitigated access to their bodies, including children's. Check the statistics.

Many of the recent victims were children as young as 12 years old. However, what is also not reported in these 'alarming' reports is that there are just as many males who suffer similar forms of abuse. Given the extreme homophobia that permeates the society, it is the bravest of males who will come forward to report such crimes. Equally as disturbing are the attitudes which suggest that early and unplanned, if not violent, sexual initiation is a rite of passage for young girls in Jamaica.

It is often older men who induct many 'fresh vegetables' into the arcane world of adult knowledge, which unfortunately, sometimes, also bring with it pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Sexual violence and how much of that is tied to cultural attitudes of entitlement, especially as it relates to men, is ingrained in the society. This makes it harder to honestly have this very difficult conversation, particularly considering that many see nothing wrong with teenagers having sex with adult men.

Further, not many make the connection between how the media manipulate women's bodies to sell various products and, ultimately, the tragedies we hear and read about in the news on this subject. Ideas that because fathers have worked hard to care for the young, these men are endowed with the right to sample their pre-pubescent 'treats' first, are still very much entrenched in the culture. These are the same attitudes that encourage young girls - and boys too - to trade their bodies for money, so as to feed their families.

So, until all of these issues are also urgently addressed in the current campaign, our children will remain as unsafe as ever. Until we truthfully acknowledge, regardless of how much it pains us, that we are also complicit in the commission of many of these crimes, there will never be any true justice.

What is it that we desire - a campaign to make us feel good that something is being done? Or one that really seeks to get to the root of the problem and to eradicate it, once and for all?