Almost a year has passed since an image found its way onto my timeline “WEAR BLACK 6.FEB.2017. Join us as we take a stand to end violence against our women and children. Please share with your friends.” In no time, I searched Twitter for more tweets about it and shared the photo on Instagram. Immediately I had my doubts about whether people here in London would care enough to like this photo, even those of Jamaican descent. Then I thought about people who would like my post but ignore the concept in general. To my knowledge, only one of my friends decided to wear black in solidarity.
For a second I thought back to when my friends in Jamaica shared a link to an article to about their friend being murdered by her boyfriend. They explained how they had heard a rumour that the girl had been cheating on her boyfriend and this was his motivation for killing her. That he said her vagina apparently felt different and THIS was how he knew she had been unfaithful. I quickly expressed my disgust, the first murder of the year in the parish was possibly due to a nothing but bullshit. Whether true or not I knew that people in the area would have blamed her for her untimely death, and said that she shouldn’t have cheated. The double standards of it all is that Jamaican men are called “gyalists” in praise for their womanising ways, and women are killed for even the suspicion of infidelity.
The wearing of black and the marches that occurred on February 6th across Jamaica were the people’s attempt to raise awareness around the issues violence against women and children in the country. Despite support from many beloved celebrity personalities, a lot of people still see the events in the past years as isolated incidents. Others argued that wearing black would not have solved the problem.
Seeing pictures from the march on Twitter, made me think back to early January when the Moravian Pastor from St. Elizabeth was arrested for “allegedly raping and sexually abusing” a fifteen-year-old. This apparently sparked the creation of the Tambourine Army. I remember my friend in Jamaica telling me her uncle was one of the arresting officers, we discussed how we expected many people to come to the pastor’s defence throughout the entire thing. The arguments about how the pastor was a man of God and how he could never do something like that or labelling the underage girl as a sex demon who threw herself at the man. Such events reminded me of how regarding the Caribbean, or at least Jamaica, tackling the issues on a legal level was only half the battle. The mindset of the people was the other half.
Jamaican sexual assault activists submitted recommendations to the country’s Parliament about the Sexual Offenses Act and on March 11, 2017, Tambourine Army took to the streets of Kingston to protest against Gender Violence and Rape Culture not only in Jamaica but across the Caribbean. Their debut “Survivor Empowerment” protest was one of many women led marches across the Caribbean, in places such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Imani Duncan-Price, co-executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, on the Tambourine Army stated “The aim: to finally make Jamaica safer for women and girls, to deal systematically with the scourge of violence against children and women.” To make noise to protest gender violence and the normalisation of rape culture women was invited to carry tambourines, whistles, pots and pans. Many came to stand in sisterhood with the survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
The activisicm didn’t stop there. Two days after Dr Verene Shepherd of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at UWI, Mona, held an event called “History of and Culture of Rape in the Caribbean” and Co-founder of the Tambourine Army, Latoya Nugent, on March 13, was arrested and charged with here counts of breaching Jamaica’s Cybercrimes Act. The arrest came after the LGBT activist posted the names of alleged sexual predators on social media sites. Nugent did not appear in court for her bail hearing on March 15th after falling ill the night before. In May 2017, she walked out of court a free woman, as there was no evidence against her. The dope Human Rights & Development Practitioner, Freirean Educator, Feminist Capitalist Black Lesbian continues to tweet where she dissects the socioeconomic and political state of the Caribbean region.
Even so, in 2010, per the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Jamaica, it was stated that there is an unacceptably high level of violence against women and girls on the island. Kelly-Ann, in a video for J-Flag – “a human rights and social justice organisation which works for […] (LGBT) people in Jamaica” – said that “street harassment is becoming very rampant in Jamaica…a lot of women…basically every woman…you can’t go about your business in peace.” She goes on further to explain about lesbians specifically experiencing the practice of corrective rape because some men feel they “just need to be changed.” Meanwhile Amnesty International’s annual report for 2015/16 noted that: “High levels of gender-based violence and domestic violence continued with high numbers of women killed by their spouse or partner.” Also in the video is Abbey-Sade who says “We need to hold men accountable. We need to hold out government accountable. Challenge them…” The Un Women’s Global Database on Violence Against Women, mentions in a conclusion of their observations that gender-based violence is widely underreported and that there are insufficient training and awareness amongst everyone from judges to police officers.
Despite all the amazing things the women are doing to change the society within they are oppressed and abused, we cannot forget the men. The toxic hypermasculinity which plays a role in their violence against women and children is significantly rooted in colonialism. Violence is used to police their masculinity. Postcolonial theory suggests that these men rarely have the money or power in their post colonized country, they make up for this emasculation by being hyper-masculine. Being quick to anger, being aggressive and violent are all things associated with being a man, and they take it to extreme levels. In Jamaica, the societal pressures to obtain and keep multiple women are as strongly enforced as not showing emotion or crying. Another pressure is not accepting rejection. A most recent example is the murder of 17-year-old Mickolle Moulton, who was shot dead in her home for allegedly rejecting sexual advances from men in her area. A discussion needs to be had about toxic masculinity and hypermasculinity amongst men. Without it, the amazing work of The Tambourine Army will only reach so far.
A link to The Tambourine Army’s Go Fund Me Page. Your contribution to the The Tambourine Army’s Go Fund Me Page will be widely appreciated Another way to help is by purchasing their unisex Tambourine Army Cuff. Also by donating to the island only women and crisis shelter, Women Inc.
Written by Jemmar Samuels