by Sandra CA Ferguson
“…the law is an ass — an idiot. …and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.” (quote adapted from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)
- The Law Is An Ass
The “law is an ass” kept reverberating in my head when I heard about the verdict and fine handed down in the case of an adult male who induced a 5-year-old boy left in his care, to perform sexual acts on him – a $2,100 fine, $1,500 to be paid to the government coffers and $600 to be paid for counselling services to the child. What a travesty! What insult! What indignity to the personhood of the child and his family!! Less we forget, it is INJUSTICES like these which cause those who have been violated to take the law into their own hands with TRAGIC consequences for all!!
According to information gleaned from various media reports,
- the adult in question is “an elder” in a church
- the legal counsel representing the elder “presented psychological and biosocial reports” to explain his client’s actions.
In my “unschooled in law” opinion:
- Church Elder: If the adult is “an elder” in a church, this means that he occupies some position of seniority, responsibility and influence in his church. And given the nature of this crime, this fact should increase the severity of his sentence, not mitigate it.
- Psychological/Bio-social Reports: If the legal counsel presented “psychological and biosocial reports” to provide an explanation for his client’s actions, then legal counsel presented EVIDENCE which proved that this “elder” was in URGENT need of help and was a danger to himself, to society and to children in particular. The logical thing, it would seem, was to have remanded him for further psychological evaluation. Was he himself a victim of such traumatic abuse as a 5-year-old?
- Crime and Time: The $600 fine does not reflect the ENORMITY of the crime and its lifelong adverse psychological impact /trauma on the abused child.
Something went dreadfully wrong in this case and we the people are justifiably enraged! The prompt action of the police prosecution in appealing the case is to be applauded. But how and why did this travesty occur? Was it the LAW? The concerns and observations made by several influential persons of the legal and other professions on this issue have been noted. Will the concerns be heard, will there be systemic change which will ensure that such a TRAVESTY does not occur in the future?
- We the People and the Role of Parliamentarians
It is useful for we the people to BE AWARE that is Parliament which makes and changes laws. It is we the people who vote persons into office to be our representatives in the House, to be the LAWMAKERS and to be the caretakers and stewards of our business. For years, the advocates of women and children’s rights have called for a reform of the laws of Grenada to adequately address the issues of violence against women and the abuse of children. Among the prominent advocates were Brenda Hood and Ann David-Antoine – both of whom served as Chairpersons of the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child, then went on to become Ministers in the NNP administration.
- Women in Parliament
The New National Party administration is justifiably proud of its record re the number of women parliamentarians.
- In the 2003-2008 administration, there were five (5) female ministers – including Sen. Hood and Sen. Antoine. Three of these ministers were elected members of parliament.
- In the 2013-2018 administration, there were five (5) female ministers, all of whom were elected members of parliament.
- And within the current administration, there are seven (7) elected, female parliamentarians – 47% representation of women in Parliament, currently has one of the highest figures in the Commonwealth region.
Impressive Numbers vs. the Protection of Women and Children
How have these “impressive numbers” advanced the legislative reform agenda for the protection of women and children in Grenada? Does one get the sense of a women’s agenda/ children’s agenda being advanced by the honourable women? Do we see a women’s/children’s agenda influencing decision making and allocation of the budget resources? How is it that Grenada has spent $23 million on a new one-purpose Parliament building on the former Government House Grounds, while the state of the health services is at its lowest in the history of post-Independence Grenada and a number of schools are in disrepair, notwithstanding the official, mind-boggling growth rates being reported?
Does the country have its PRIORITIES right? Are our women parliamentarians influencing those priorities in the way we want them to/expected for the protection, security and advancement of women and children?
Just recently, we the people were appalled by the Calistra Farrier – Sen. Rev. Dr Garraway- Minister Modeste-Curwen incident at the conclusion of a post-Cabinet briefing of 10 September when Sen. Garraway prevented Farrier, a freelance journalist, from gaining access to Min. Modeste-Curwen who had agreed to an interview with her. Sen. Garraway instructed the veteran Member of Parliament/Senior Minister not to respond to the question and escorted her out of the room. then blocking the door to intercept Farrier – notwithstanding that Min. Modeste-Curwen advised Sen. Garraway that she was prepared to accommodate the journalist’s question. While attempting to gain access to Min. Modeste-Curwen, Farrier tumbled to the ground and in an audio recording, the male minister can be heard accusing Farrier of being a “liar” and “rebuking evil spirits/demons”. It is understood that the matter appeared to have been a HEARTY JOKE for the female Minister of Legal Affairs while the veteran Minister appeared incapable /reluctant to intervene and walked away from the scene with Farrier still on the ground.
Real Status of Women Parliamentarians
- If a veteran minister and an ELECTED representative of the people for some 20 consecutive years, since 1999:-
- cannot in HER own deliberate judgment CHOOSE to answer a question pertinent to a serious matter which took place in HER constituency – being prevented from doing so by an UNELECTED MALE colleague, a religious leader, who also appears to not understand his boundaries as minister of government and minister of religion;
- is unable/unwilling to intervene on behalf of a female journalist (incidentally from her own constituency) to whom she made a commitment regarding an interview,
- If the Minister of Legal Affairs, also a female parliamentarian, considers the whole incident a HEARTY JOKE,
…then what can we the people expect of our women parliamentarians? Does 7 of 15 really mean anything? Are our women parliamentarian interested in influencing anything or are they merely “window dressing”? Do these female parliamentarians really understand their special role? Are they committed to the protection of women and children?
- Call to Action: Minding Our Business
We the people should remember that the protection of women and children is OUR BUSINESS. We have a responsibility to MIND OUR BUSINESS and that includes holding those whom we have elected to be our representatives and caretakers/stewards of our affairs – both the women and the men – ACCOUNTABLE for how they represent us, protect our women and children and spend our money. We must ensure OUR money is spent on PRIORITIES rather than on intended showpieces.
That verdict and $2,100 fine was a CALL TO ACTION for the protection of our women and children, a call to mind our business! Are we the people going to answer, in the affirmative? The CHOICE is ours!