We observe with shock, shame and sadness, the continuing and escalating rise in extreme acts of violence against women and children in our country. We the men of the Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN) stand in full solidarity with women and other well-thinking men in Jamaica and the rest of the region in voicing our utter condemnation.
We are particularly jolted by the recent and most despicable manifestation of this violence, the brutal rape which has wreaked unspeakable horror on the lives of five people in St. James – women and girls, one as young as eight years old, and has cast a mood of indelible grief and palpable fear on an entire community. We share in their grief. This action, reportedly carried out by two men, has touched a nerve, and stirred a collective sense of anger and hurt across the entire nation. As a group, and as individual men, we also feel it deeply; especially because CariMAN, our “Male Action Network”, was initiated to promote positive action and prevent such negative activities.
Beyond being viscerally moved by the horrific nature of this recent crime, we are motivated to also ask several searching questions of ourselves as men and as a society. What manner of men have we as a society created? These perpetrators are perhaps men with some mental problems or they may have been strung out on drugs or whatever, but what but what made them feel like they could commit such acts and get away? What are the attitudes we men have, and the values our society promotes that allow for this kind of behaviour to occur? These men must have family and friends – men and women. What did they know about these men? How did their behaviour end up being so depraved? How do we men allow our friends to behave in ways that border on and may end up as depravity?
We maintain that these are deviant actions that do not reflect the average, well thinking Jamaican man. But how and when will the average, well thinking man move beyond cringing inwardly and start acting outwardly against these types of action? How do we really facilitate that move from quiet condemnation to transformative action? Importantly, what are younger men learning about what is acceptable, when big men with influential voices fail to call out other men for the attitudes that nurture violence including gender based violence? And to what extent does our ingrained ‘informer fi dead’ mentality protect such violent men from prosecution?
Ironically, if and when these perpetrators are caught, there will very likely be a mob waiting in the ready to beat and chop them to mince. So we ask yet another question. Isn’t our general acceptance of violence as a way of life helping to make it difficult to eliminate gender based violence?
We will need many different kinds of interventions to address these issues, and CariMAN wishes to invite men to join with us in moving beyond talk to action. We have been involved with a Partnership for Peace program in the region and we know that there are numerous other violence prevention programs. We have also partnered with UNFPA, RISE Life Management and Operation Save Jamaica to initiate culturally sensitive conversations with youth around issues of sexual violence. All these initiatives require ongoing conversations to identify attitudes and beliefs and also require the corollary actions necessary for transformation.
Men are invariably in positions of influence and power, whether or not some of us belong in these positions. Men, let us use our positions to be agents of positive change. Get involved!
Owen Blakka Ellis
The Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN)