We cannot remain silent on an issue like this – Activist
“Dutty man, you dutty man, leave de people pickney alone.”
Those words from the popular Romain Virgo song bellowed from a small speaker box last Saturday morning, as protesters held placards calling for an end to rape and sexual assault.
The group of men and women were gathered outside the House of Assembly where they picketed against what they consider a rise in sexual assault on women and minors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
Leading the protest action was political activist Laverne “Gypsy” Phillips, who told SEARCHLIGHT that she decided to stage the protest after she heard about an alleged rape of a four-year-old child, who persons claim contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as a result of the assault.
“When I heard the report, I decided this had to stop and we cannot remain silent as a people on an issue like this.
“We have to do something about it. We don’t have our ministers in government speaking about it and it’s time for somebody to stand up and say no, we are not going to do this anymore. We are tired,” commented Phillips.
Phillips said that she would like to see legislation that introduces a sex offenders registry and she is calling on the government to create this registry which can help protect persons from sexual predators.
“We have an issue with rape in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it is time for us to scourge what is happening,” stressed Phillips.
Also on the picket line was parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).
“There is just too much and not just rape, but serious crimes against women and children and our society seems to be accepting it more and more and what we are saying, leadership is critical in this matter,” Cummings commented.
He said that persons in authority must set an example and laws must be adjusted to make sure the punishment fits the crime.
“This is not something that any part of the society should accept. It’s just abominable and I am calling particularly on the men to let their voices be added to this clarion call and put an end to this injustice,” said Cummings.
Protester Bryan Alexander said he was on the picket line as in his opinion, not many men get involved in these types of protests.
“Many males are involved in the rape culture and the striking thing to me is that there is this fear factor that if you come out with rape, to talk about rape, you are going to ruffle the feathers of even people who are in authority,” said Alexander.
Another male protester told SEARCHLIGHT that he has two children, a boy and a girl and the abuse of young children needs to stop.
“I am calling on the men to lift up the youths as the youths are tomorrow,” he commented.
A female protester who brought her children to hold placards said she is in solidarity with all the children, parents and family members who have been affected by sexual assault.
She said that in her opinion, the law courts do not seem to be working.
“I brought my children to show this is what we are fighting for, as a mother I am fed up,” she said.
Last August, Kimberley Cambridge, a psychologist attached to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) said that we cannot pretend that a rape culture does not exist in SVG.
She had noted that between January 2018 and January 2019, 47 new cases of rape were reported to her department. Of the 47, 40 were girls under the age of 18 and in one case, the victim was a male under the age of 12. The victims came from 35 different communities.
She had also stressed that the problem does not exist in SVG alone, but when the statistics are compared (per capita) to several other countries in the region, SVG has one of the highest reported incidents of rape, 112 per 100,000.