I Am Shanique Myrie

or Jamaicans and Women are also Human

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is currently hearing the case of Ms Shanique Myrie against the Eastern Caribbean state of Barbados. Ms Myrie is accusing Barbados1 of subjecting her to vaginal fingering2, insults and other inhumane treatment during detention before she was deported to Jamaica. Ms Myrie holds that the substandard and discriminatory treatment she received, including exposure to “forceful, brutish language” was due to her Jamaican nationality. Ms Myrie is not the only Jamaican woman who has accused Barbadian officers of discriminatory treatment3.

I am a woman who bears a Jamaican passport and I travel primarily alone. I have never been subjected to the treatments described by Ms Myrie et al but I have also never sought entry into Barbados, but depending on the outcome of this case, I just might pay them a visit. I look forward to reading the judgment, regardless of the conclusion, and eagerly anticipate the ironing out of regional border control policies that will undoubtedly arise from such an intense exposé.

Nationality-based discrimination is still a strong human reality, and it is not only a personal prejudice practiced by a few opinionated individuals; it is institutionally legitimized and taught and it does not only take place at international ports of entry. It exists in the labour markets of some developed countries where immigrants automatically receive lower wages and different benefits than natives, ceteris paribus. It exists within the justice and education systems where persons who are incompetent at a country’s accepted language are automatically at a disadvantage.  It exists in service and hospitality industries where some patrons are asked to pay upfront while others can pay after being served, where the swiftness of service depends on the accent of the customer; even in Jamaican resort areas, there is a marked difference between the service given to Jamaican nationals and those from foreign countries. I maintain the opinion that Jamaica is the least xenophobic of countries, or reversely xenophobic as it seems as if we are prejudiced against our own and more respectful of foreigners and the Jamaican minorities of a certain social esteem and skin tone.

Even more rampant in societies is gender-based discrimination.

P2147497 851x1024 I Am Shanique Myrie

Sand on the beach appears homogenous, but on closer inspection you will find that each grain is different, much like groups of people. Ubuntu (bracelet): We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way4. In an article entitled “Jailed and Raped in Barbados,” a Jamaican woman makes chilling allegations of being repeatedly drugged and raped in a Barbadian lockup. She made several reports of the rape and her claims did not receive any immediate attention. She said, “My biggest fear is not the men; it’s the women; because the women are the ones who let in the men and let them rape me.” We women might be instinctively more nurturing but we are certainly not immune to the disease that is bigotry. There is an evident reluctance among women to support each other. Even though we share the oppression; we do not appear willing to fight the power that is sexism. We do not acknowledge that we are, as women, perpetuating misogyny when we regard each other so callously.

I am still searching for the acceptable explanation as to why only one of the seven CCJ judges is a woman, when women are 51 per cent of the global population, and are faring far better academically than our male counterparts within the Caribbean region. Women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels in politics, law, banking and the civil service, especially. The recurrent elevation of men to positions of significant power is reinforcing negative attitudes regarding the competencies of women, not to mention the arbitrary patriarchal beliefs that are accepted as norms throughout the predominantly Christian region.

Women, Jamaicans and Jamaican women, we must look within ourselves and fix our attitudes towards each other. Society already gi’ we basket fi carry water because we cannot change who we are even if we had the desire to. We are disadvantaged because we are Jamaicans, we are disadvantaged because we are women but internally we have to rise above and reach beyond these stereotypes, we have to expunge them from within ourselves in order to effect change outside of our spheres. Let us do this and look forward to the day when the world is more accepting and just.

  1. or their appointed customs and immigration officers []
  2. dubbed a cavity search []
  3. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jailed-and-raped-in-Barbados and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Another-Bajan-horror-story_12652203 []
  4. http://www.unfpa.org/gender/violence.htm []
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29 Comments

  1. Fragano Ledgister
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    This is alarming, to say the least.

    • Barbados for Bajans. fight the Baje.
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Permalink

      Any opened minded progressive thinking person can see Barbados is not the problem. The problems are clearly in Jamaica Trinidad St Vincent and Guyana, after all who are running where again? Just Imagine the four musketeers have so much, land, gold diamonds, oil and still can’t find the beltholes in there pants. They developed this hatred for Barbados because of the bajans success. Calling bajans every name in books,while not looking in they own mirror. They love to sell the argument that bajans don’t like blacks..ha ha. A country that is more. pure black than the four musketeers put together

      • Karee
        Posted March 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Permalink

        Let me first point out that I am writing under the assumption that you have not read a word of my above writings (because surely you couldn’t have and made such remarks here!) .

        I wrote this post with people like you in mind: this type of people exists in Barbados, Jamaica and across the world. You have sought to portray yourself as ‘open-minded and progressive’ but your words have characterized you as ignorant, intolerant and backward. I would like to thank you for your comment, for reminding me that no matter how hard I try, I cannot change certain ingrained attitudes, values and beliefs.

        I implore you to lay down your biases, re-read my post and try to leave more appropriate remarks. I am also very happy that I have experienced lovely Barbadian people who would reject your statements in a heartbeat, otherwise I would have adopted the belief that all Barbadians are hateful. Barbados is not the problem, and I have never asserted such; individuals like you are.

        • Nicoy Smith
          Posted March 10, 2013 at 10:06 PM | Permalink

          Sigh…. I really doubt he/she read the post. READ THE DAMN POST and remove the bias from your heart and mind!

      • Fragano Ledgister
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

        This is either extraordinarily naïve or deliberately provocative. The issue is not one of racism but one of whether some, by no means all, Bajans are prejudiced against particular nationalities — with Jamaicans among the nationalities being singled out.

  2. Munair Zacca
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

    Disgraceful!

  3. Alwayne
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    All I can say is wow O_O

  4. Munair Zacca
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    Moderation?–are the reported offenses moderate??!!

  5. Ramano
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    No surprises there this is a Third World (or Developing as some like to call it) Justice system matters take forever to resolve no matter how trivial, domestically so I wouldn’t even want to imagine how long an external Caribbean matter like this will take to resolve. But every country has an image and no country is liked world over even the great United States of America is disliked if not despised in certain Middle Eastern Regions due to acts they have committed directly or indirectly to that region.

    So realistically that labeling of countries and the citizens of said countries won’t be going anywhere soon, other Caribbean islands have equally bad reputations like the Haitians have developed a terrible reputations overseas. As for the gender matter, the same stands for how women treat other women which is also a global issue, women betray, neglect and lure other women to be the victim of men.

    As for our self hate and the prioritization of foreigners or those of a more appealing pigmentation over the natives/locals and or those of a darker complexion is also not a “Jamaican” trait either it is global, Cuba comes to mind the lighter complexion Cubans look down and treat the darker complexion Cubans to a point that they cannot enter certain establishments an associate of mine was visiting Cuba and she was denied entry to a club because they assumed she was one of the darker complexion natives of the island when it was clarified that she was visiting from Jamaica she was granted access to the club, it is just one of those ugly realities of life.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

      Thank you for your comment. I am still afraid to believe that xenophobia is necessary and inevitable.

      • Ramano
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

        Many things in life are not necessary but yet they are still inevitable due to human nature.

  6. Andrea Livingston-Prince
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    I am so very proud of Ms Myrie’s commitment to reaping justice. She is strong and the legal team and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica must be congratulated. When vulnerable, being able to lean on the right people is always empowering.

    Kudos, big up, nuff respeck and best wishes.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

      Shanique has taken on a heavy load; this case has implications for so many Caribbean citizens. Her effort is admirable. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Mr. Smith
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:49 PM | Permalink

    Beautifully written piece I must say. Secondly, I agree with your position on the matter and I sadden by the fact that many Jamaicans have faced situations in which they are discriminated against at several ports of entries. I am sure Barbados is not the only country that subject Jamaicans to this level of discrimination and bigotry.
    A matter of fact, this landmark case will definitely ensure that better standards are instilled and postulated to preserve the rights of persons that travel to Barbados and other countries. I personally believe that many persons have failed to contest the treatment they have received in trying to enter Barbados and other country. But, due to our disposition as Jamaica we might ignore certain treatment because at the end of the day we can’t be bothered with the long drawn out and no result process in fighting for justice.
    I am desperately hoping that she wins this case and sends a message to Barbados and the other countries. Apart from being abused at ports of entry. We need to also acknowledge the many drug smugglers and others that have gone to other countries and give a bad imagine of Jamaica and those in Jamaica that continue to do wrong in Jamaica which cause more negative publicity of the country. We need to clean up our attitudes as well.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

      The bureaucracy of the system is indeed a deterrent for many in pursuing justice. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Cindy's Daughter
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

    Great post!! I like the fact that you placed the case in its broader context. There are so many issues at play here: class, gender, nationality, free movement across Caricom, even the utility of Caricom itself. Whatever the outcome, it will go a long way towards shaping Jamaican-Barbadian and broader Caricom relations. Waiting with bated breath.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

      As am I. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Javany Ellis
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    So disgraceful!!! Nobody just cant be trusted!!

  10. William Lynch
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM | Permalink

    I’ve traveled to >15 countries across NA, Latin America and the Caribbean – Barbados still holds the distinction of being the ONLY country where an Immigration Officer has asked to see my itinerary to confirm when I will leave their country. This despite it not being my first trip to Barbados AND I had never stayed >7 days on any previous trip. The officer was preparing to send me back to Jamaica until I realized he was serious. I ended up having to log on to my laptop and show him an electronic copy of the itinerary.

    It’s all coincidence I’m sure… until everyone’s coincidence coincides – then it becomes pattern. prejudice.petty.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment. I have always held that a screening system is not concrete without consistency. What applies for one should apply for all.

  11. Mama D
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:00 PM | Permalink

    Well done for looking up, seeing what is happening and sharing it! When a young woman rises she is often weighed down by the burden of what the world places on her shoulders. Most are not even able to raise their eyes to notice the patterns of the pauper mind-set, so well done.
    Now for action!
    Awaiting your next set of observations with eagerness!

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

      Thanks Mama. I am heartened by your gracious thoughts.

  12. Raymond
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

    Great commentary, I am proud that this woman has stood up to this state sanctioned torture & injustice meted out by Barbados against other Caricom nationals. They are just too damn cocky & self righteous like they are holy beings among mortal men on earth. Their colonial masters really got their minds twisted up.

  13. Wayne
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Caricom is crap … !!!!!

  14. Mike
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:59 AM | Permalink

    Point taken on the composition of those sitting on judgement in this case and the disparity of the sexes in securing positions in commerce, industry and public administration within the region generally, ( the male dominated culture is an issue which must be addressed). For present purposes however, what is more important is the decision of the Court itself and its potential effect on relations within the region. Similar to the EU not wanting to foster closer ties by having a Fiscal Union, I suspect that the region’s leaders see Caricom merely as an artificial creature with no teeth or substance, a result of which is the unfortunate fact of the Myrie’s case.

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

      Agreed. Thanks for commenting.

  15. Rich
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 9:10 AM | Permalink

    as jamaicans and as people on a whole we need to support each other in situation of this sort if we hope to achieve fair treatmen for all man kind

    • Karee
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Permalink

      Fully agree.

  16. Dave
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    I admire her efforts on taking this matter all the way. It will have implications for the rest of the Caribbean and I am certain the impact will change the way a lot of things are now seemingly set as “blind pathways” in how we deal with each other. I salute her indeed.

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