More hot air from politi­cians as rape fig­ures rise!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Toni Ni­cholas

You wouldn’t know it from what the po­lice said last week about crime in Saint Lu­cia but the hard truth is that sex­ual of­fences, par­tic­u­larly against women and chil­dren, are on the rise. 34 cases of sex with mi­nors less than twelve years old have so far been recorded this year. Ad­di­tion­ally, there have been 56 in­de­cent as­sault cases.

As of Oc­to­ber this year 37 rapes have been re­ported. Dur­ing the same pe­riod last year there were 26 re­ported in­ci­dents of which, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, only 20 have been “de­tected.”

The star­tling fig­ures were re­vealed at last Thurs­day’s po­lice press con­fer­ence. Four more rape in­ci­dents have since been “re­ported”—all in just a week. Given the re­luc­tance on the part of vic­tims to re­port in­ci­dents, the rape fig­ures may be higher than of­fi­cially an­nounced. The rea­sons range from a lack of faith in a po­lice force that stands ac­cused of gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights; a bro­ken jus­tice sys­tem; and the time it takes for such mat­ters to get to court. The rape-mur­der of Ver­linda Joseph some 13 years ago, to men­tion one case, re­mains un­re­solved.

The most re­cent in­ci­dent of re­ported rape has again sparked gen­eral out­rage. Po­lice sources say that on Mon­day evening two fe­males, both aged 16, were gang-raped by three un­known males. The vic­tims were rav­aged in their apart­ment in Re­duit, Gros Islet.

Last Satur­day a Ja­maican se­cu­rity guard was also ac­cused of rap­ing a young girl at Re­duit Beach. As if all of that was not hor­ri­fy­ing enough, a po­lice of­fi­cer has been ac­cused of rap­ing his girl­friend.

There has been a flurry of press re­leases and com­ments from groups, in­di­vid­u­als and politi­cians on th­ese re­cent in­ci­dents. But noth­ing the na­tion has not heard be­fore.

Raise Your Voice Saint Lu­cia, an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to the pro­mo­tion of women’s rights, has de­clared it­self “ap­palled and hor­ri­fied at the surge of vi­o­lent sex­ual crimes against women and girls per­pe­trated by ag­gres­sive and sadis­tic males.” The or­ga­ni­za­tion is call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to put the safety of women at the top of its pri­or­ity list and to en­sure that more resources are made avail­able to agen­cies to fight this is­sue.

Car­ing Hands Foundation has also ex­pressed em­pa­thy with the vic­tims. “We hope that ev­ery ef­fort is made by the rel­e­vant author­i­ties to treat and mit­i­gate the im­pact of this hor­ren­dous crime on the lives of the two … treat­ment and other sup­port ser­vices should also be ex­tended to the fam­i­lies, friends and class­mates of the young ladies.”

As for the politi­cians, three of them, all fe­male, have so far com­mented. Former health min­is­ter Sarah Flood-Beaubrun says the sit­u­a­tion is crit­i­cal and it needs to be ad­dressed.

The cur­rent health min­is­ter Alv­ina Reynolds said: “I want to send a strong mes­sage out to the men of this coun­try that enough is enough, that there must be re­spect for women, there must be that sense of want­ing to pro­tect women. We are equal part­ners in this coun­try and one group can­not be seen as be­ing dis­re­spected and vi­o­lated again and again.” She ad­vo­cated a dis­cus­sion on the use of pep­per spray and mace, cur­rently il­le­gal.

Op­po­si­tion leader Dr. Gale Rigob­ert has also ex­pressed her con­cerns. “We should take a stance, and the pow­ers that be need to send a strong mes­sage to would-be rapists that they will feel the full brunt of the law.” Dr. Rigob­ert also ap­pealed to gov­ern­ment to bet­ter equip law en­force­ment to pur­sue mat­ters rig­or­ously in­stead of pump­ing resources into the in­fras­truc­ture sec­tor. Dur­ing the last bud­get de­bate she had ex­pressed con­cern over the re­duced al­lo­ca­tion to the po­lice.

And so it would ap­pear that all of this talk will again come to nought, if the coun­try is with­out a func­tion­ing crime lab - in­op­er­a­tive for close to five months - and the po­lice are ill-equipped to even be­gin to in­ves­ti­gate such cases. And, even when some of the cases reach court, they take years be­fore they come to trial, if at all. Mean­while the vic­tims who are scarred for life suf­fer even more an­guish by a sys­tem that con­tin­ues to fail them.

As I write, yet an­other march is planned for Novem­ber 25 to mark In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Vi­o­lence Against Women.

An­other day, an­other march. Will things change any­time soon?

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