A 15 year old girl was gang-raped by her boyfriend and several of his friends, got pregnant before completing her A’level exams and was forced to leave school as a result. She is shunned by an unforgiving church. Pleas to the boyfriend’s family for assistance are rejected and she is forced to return to her impoverished circumstances and depend on her already stressed mother to assist. Suicide becomes a real contemplation for her. This is a snippet of the plot from the play “Where is my father” by Jamaican playwright Basil Dawkins. On Saturday, I attended a special airing of the play organised by the Ministry of National Security for members of the Ministry and other cross-sections of the Justice sector. It was followed by a very moving panel discussion.
Depression is knowing that save for the almost fairy-tale ending demonstrating restorative justice at its best and the young girl’s courage in seeking justice, the rest of it is very real and represents life for many young girls in Jamaica. This is not just a story with perfect comedic timing, it is life. What is more, it is happening to girls as young as 10, 11, 12. To see the desperation of a mother who forces her daughter to have sex with a stranger turn godfather, because for this “small price” he is willing to buy them food, liquor and supplies for the baby. So many issues are revealed in this play – a destructive culture divide between “uptown” and “downtown” Jamaica, a dangerous sub-culture and value system that seems to condone the sexual abuse of little girls, a system fraught with corruption, a justice system that does not seem able to protect these vulnerable children & worst re-traumatizes them and a country starved of the resources it needs to fight this complex problem.
I do what I can in my work with CUSO International to promote a more child-friendly justice system here in Jamaica, but I am very well aware that many who are also trying, are extremely frustrated. According to one panellist, the “wounded healers” are now becoming the “wounding healers” as statistics show that most persons who go into the “helping” profession have themselves been victims in some way .
My question is where did we go wrong as a society? Why would a grown man – rich or poor – look at a little child and feel these desires? A child is a little being who is to be protected. How in the world in an age of so much information can someone still believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure us of sexually transmitted diseases? Really, am I the one who is in the dark here and is missing something? Here is an account by one doctor who must deal with one aspect of the problem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/NEWS/Horrific_11166833. Here is a link to a previous blog entry that gives some information on one place to go for assistance https://islandscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/help-for-victims-of-crime-in-the-caribbean/. VSU can be contacted at 946-0663/ 946-9287. All services are free.
I am convinced that all is not lost. We are more than capable of putting our heads together and dealing with this pervasive issue. May 01st marked the start of Child Month. Please do your part to protect the safety and well-being of our young ones.
You can check out Queen Ifrica’s song “Daddy” and listen to the words. Sad but real.