“It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”
Senator Hillary Clinton
On October 20, 2013, Colin BH wrote an article in the Amandala newspaper called “Bake it Again”. Colin gave a whimsical and romanticized view of rape, even going as far as calling the act “natural” when it was against a female vs a male; more “heinous” when it was a male; and simultaneously victim-blamed and downplayed the effects of rape on women and children. Unbelievably, Colin writes for a newspaper that thrives on black power, but actually celebrated centuries of raped slaves because it produced a “beautiful race” of Belizeans in his baked opinions.
Colin’s baked opinions became a significant symbol and a wake up call alerting Belizeans as why stronger child protection and gender laws are urgently needed. Colin was expressing what he believed to be an appropriate response to the amendments to the Criminal Code that seeks to strengthen laws of Belize to protect children. The unfortunate reality is that Colin represented the views of quite a few men and women in Belize. One may even argue that he was merely stating what is a culturally accepted practice in Belize’s society.
Colin suffered un-remorseful foot-in-mouth disease and was clueless when confronted about his opinion. He stated that he could not find anything distasteful about his article. Lets pray today, Colin is a little more mindful and educated on the social, political and emotional issues of traumatic and too often permanent debilitating effects of rape for all victims regardless of sex.
The uncomfortable truth is victim-blaming and rape, especially involving very young women and older men, are part of Belize’s culture. I have witnessed many times when a significantly older man is caught with a child, comments on Facebook pages begin with a wave of abuse defenders stating that “she mi di look for it”; “deh lee gial fast these days”; “she da wa whore”; etc.; instead of recognizing it is an adult manipulating and abusing a child.
Pastor Willacy affair with a 16-year old student is a perfect example of the culture practiced in Belize. Willacy was a married principal from a religious school, a counselor and a pastor and he was well respected. He targeted a child who was entrusted in his care by the girl parent. He admittedly abused his position of trust and carried out a relationship with a child. In his case, many people openly attacked the young girl’s reputation and were willing to give the “good” pastor a break to abuse again. Due to ineffective laws, nothing more than headlines came of this case. Pastor Willacy is just one of hundreds of cases every year in Belize.
Colin voice was necessary in this debate because it may be the first time that society was slapped into reality of how women and female children are perceived. As a woman who played sports, I can attest to the views society openly promotes about women and girls. I recall playing basketball in my youthful days and asked on numerous occasions if I didn’t have dirty dishes to wash (or something along that line), being underestimated as a viable opponent and being consistently sexual harassed on the court.
Women are not encouraged to be in male dominated arenas and it is evident even in our leadership arena. Belize has one elected woman in the House of Representative even though women represent at least 50 percent of voters. The Hon. Dolores Balderamos, Belize only elected woman, was mocked with sexist, vile and disparaging remarks during a public house meeting. Previous female candidates have been raped or shamed with sexually explicit pictures circulated in the community. Are we surprised that Belize is dead last in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean when it comes to the empowerment of women?
Colin received a much deserving tsunami of public criticism from the Woman’s Issue Network, The Special Envoy for Women and Children, Amandala colleague Adele Ramos, National Committee for Family and Children and many other people, however, lets make this a beginning and not an end. Belize must begin the arduous task of reeducating Colin and many like him because he was simply expressing what many of us have seen and heard from our own fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers and friends. Women are different, unequal and warrant the treatment they receive.
As a society we must grow and learn from this pivotal point in our history. Women must be supported and celebrated. Women are not like men and don’t want to be men, however, women are entitled to the same opportunities and respect as men. We must empower our women and girls with messages of “yes you can”; “ you can be all you want to be”; “go for it and take the road less travelled”; “it is okay to have the same dreams as men”; ”it is okay to stand out and stand up”; “your body is yours and no one controls who you are”. Let’s not forget that women are the guardians, and teachers of the next generation therefore empowering a woman empowers next generation and it will empower Belize.
Colin BH response to criticism: http://amandala.com.bz/news/colin-bh-hot-seat/