The usual suspects
Why am I not surprised at Government attacking Jamaica's endemic child abuse problem like a Square One soca song?
Square One's popular recording, Kitty Cat, urges fans to "attack it from the back", the popularity of which lyric in otherwise homophobic Jamaica has always amused me. But this is government's style. There's no problem until it becomes a crisis, and then it's attacked from the wrong end by throwing "new legislation" and "harsher penalties" at it. It's like Captain Renault's instructions to his men, "Round up the usual suspects!"
Yawn. Here's the thing about "harsher penalties". They're all well and good; sound great on political platforms or announced in sombre tones on national broadcasts; BUT lots must happen before they become useful:
1. The child abuse is already committed;
2. The police must be able to investigate; gather evidence; catch the pervert; and lay proper charges;
3. The director of public prosecution's office must agree to prosecute, then secure a conviction.
By the time (if ever) No. 2 and 3 are accomplished, more children would've been abused and authorities swamped by additional needs for justice.
Child abuse takes many forms. It suits government to focus on high-profile abuse like abduction, rape and murder. These crimes grab headlines (rightfully so), but what about the father who regularly abuses his child with cruel whippings well beyond any rational act of correction? What'll society say when that child becomes an adult child abuser? What about the young girl, reportedly "abducted" but who has in reality succumbed to financial enticement from a neighbourhood shopkeeper and is simply spending time with him, school bag and all, satisfying his perverted needs for small change?
That young girl isn't reported "abducted" by her live-in parent, but by the estranged parent who visits irregularly. The live-in parent is fully aware of her daughter's relationship with the shopkeeper and benefits from same. When the other parent raises an alarm, the live-in parent pretends shock and essays all sorts of false statements to the police, who are sent on a wild goose chase for days until truth finally comes to light. How will a "new law" criminalising "parental neglect" address this? This isn't "neglect"; it's complicity.
What about a five-year-old girl who, playing at school, suddenly feels her female playmate inserting a toy into her vagina? If she's sufficiently bold to report this, the school solves the problem by quietly expelling the 'offender', thus transferring the conundrum to another school. Often, the 'insertee' won't even know something's wrong and won't make a report. She learns this is normal play and passes it on.
The only effective solutions to Jamaica's child abuse problem are long term and must include new educational paradigms stressing education for life, rather than to pass exams. This means comprehensive sex education programmes for all schoolers, including lessons on homosexuality; child abuse; and defensive techniques. Male Jamaican perverts regularly hide behind cultural 'beliefs' like: "I made my daughter; I can do what I like to her," while mothers turn a blind eye and collect 'house money'. Sons and daughters must be taught how to resist all unnatural approaches and socialised sexually. If our education minister wishes to abdicate government's responsibility in this regard because it might involve openly discussing uncomfortable subjects, I assure him Internet, cable and cell phones will provide their special brand of sex education for him.
If you consider Square One's Kitty Cat offensive, check out the namesake recording by Gage, whose video is available to all Jamaican children. This misogynistic musical assault on decency, driven by a generation's obsession with materialism, promotes the message that nubile, scantily clad girls want to give Gage whatever he desires. The justification is: It sells. After all, what should we value above wealth? Children's morals? Social values and attitudes? Pshaw!
What a difference a generation makes. Music legend Dennis Emmanuel Brown, whose Morning Coffee interview with the superb Erica Allen was recently rebroadcast on PBC TV, glorified love, peace and harmony over cash and promoted education as essential.
"Money in my pocket but I just can't get no love
Money in my pocket but I just can't get no love
I'm praying for
a girl to be my own
Sonia said she coming but I don't believe a word she say
'cause she ran away and left me one rainy day
She made me had in mind
that her love would never die
and now I'm alone (yeah) so alone ... ."
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.