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