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Editorial | Do we need the morality police?

Published:Friday | October 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The issue of schoolgirls sitting in the laps of boys as they commute to school via public transportation was recently highlighted in this newspaper.

A distraught Portland mother who was forced to withdraw her child from school said she was essentially told that if her 12-year-old daughter could not sit in a boy's lap, she needed her own transportation because that's the way it was. The situation triggered sufficient outrage in this mother for her to switch to a school closer home, perhaps to the detriment of her child's education.

We note further Glen Bloomfield's call for the disgusting practice dubbed 'lapping up' to end. Mr Bloomfield, himself a transport operator, has suggested that there were not enough school buses in the system. People expect the Government to fix this problem. He argued that a school bus system is urgently needed.

Frankly, we are disappointed at the seeming indifference from the key players. We speak of the bus operators represented by driver and conductor, students and parents, and the police, representing the face of Government.

Since the story was published in this newspaper, the Portland police say they have prosecuted some of the buses for overloading. But this seems about all they can do. There are certain types of behaviour that cannot be punished by law because they are not illegal. Indecent in some eyes perhaps, but they fall outside the pale of the law and the court system.

What about the powerful parent-teacher association? Is this not an issue which it should pursue with vigour?

And the transport operators should be held responsible for cleaning up their mess. Obviously the bus operators, with a mandate to fill a certain daily quota, will pack as many people as they can into these buses. It speaks to a lack of respect for the future generation that conductors should dictate that young girls should sit in any lap, let alone the laps of young boys. We agree with Mr Broomfield that they do need training.

As far as the students go, we believe there ought to be enough pride to motivate them to reject this practice, identify offenders, and demand that it stop. We are aware that all of that is easier said than done, because these problems are complicated aspects of daily living and the solutions are not simple.


Do we need special squad?


Have we, therefore, arrived at a place in time when we need a morality squad within the Jamaican Constabulary Force whose job it is to ensure that people conduct themselves in a reputable manner?

We not only seem to require the police to catch criminals and put them behind bars, but there is a segment of the population that believes law enforcers should be doing everything from patrolling schoolyards to monitoring athletes and a lot of other stuff in-between.

Where the morality police operate, their actions are usually applied in the name of religion. However, in countries where they operate, a picture of disquiet has been painted because of the fear, shame and intimidation that usually accompany their actions.

So perhaps the morality police may not work well in a democracy like ours. However, the society really needs to have an open debate on what standards are considered desirable and how to get the majority to agree to uphold them.