Dear Madam Prime Minister,
I hope this letter reaches you in the best of health and safety.
I don’t know if you have heard as yet (since you want to remain positive and as a consequence eschew the news), but a member of your cabinet, Senator A.J. Nicholson, has been misbehaving. I find his misbehavior particularly repulsive. Here is why I feel that way, Madam Prime Minister.
The senator sought to make funny the issue of rape. This, in a context where flexi-work week was being discussed, yet he found a space to run a joke about rape. This, in a context where many wives are seeking, from the same house of parliament, to remove the conditionalities to marital rape, yet, he found a space to run a joke about rape. This is a context where many men feel entitled to women’s bodies. Unfortunately, the senator (and Foreign Minister) thought that rape is funny. His comments were reckless, crass, and outright WRONG.
I want you to recognize the gravity of his comments. I hope I do not have to point out to you how rooted in patriarchy and misogyny Senator A.J. Nicholson’s comments were (aint it funny that as I pen this letter to you that he remains a senator?). But apart from the misogyny and patriarchy, in making a joke out of rape, Nicholson CHOSE to actively participate in the silencing of narratives of pain, trauma, violation and sense of personal invasion many wo/men experience from rape. You will appreciate that it is no “kikiki” matter. This is one issue on which we cannot “tek bad ting mek joke”.
In ancient art of war, warriors learned that the most effective ways of reducing and crippling the humanity of their enemies were through enslavement, cannibalism and RAPE. In enslaving the enemies, they were taking from them their civilization, language, religion and will. In eating them, they were reducing them to feces and in raping them, they were ensuring that they destroyed that lineage forever. They emasculated and reduced the men before their wives as they buggered/raped them. They raped the women and had children by them for the very purpose of repeating the act on others. These children will grow up with scarred… divided loyalties… not knowing on whose side to fight. We would not get into the psychology of all that identity issues.
Madam PM, I do not normally call for rolling heads but your administration, whether out of expedience or principle, simply cannot allow Mr. Nicholson to continue either as a senator or minister of state. Even after such reckless comments, he offered a backhanded apology. Perhaps the one he offered to cabinet was a better one than he offered the public and the female senators against whom his crassness was directed. I do not accept his missive as an apology. In fact, what the senator did was to give our collective face a slap. He, up to now, has not acknowledged or admitted that his utterances were wrong. Instead, he charged those of us, who found most repugnant his comments, with being overly sensitive and unable “fi tek a joke.” How dare we not possess his more “sophisticated” sense of humour. A joke Madam PM? Who laughs when their body is sexually violated? Who laughs when they learn that from rape, they became pregnant or contracted an STI? Who laughs when for rape they seek the justice of the courts only to have to prove the legitimacy of their rape to defense attorneys who pull them apart on a witness stand, going through every sordid detail of her sex life – past, present and imagined? These days acts of rape are recorded on smart phones and videos uploaded to facebook, youtube, vine and the like. The victims’ life tarnished. The perpetrators get a forwards ’cause a nuh notn. mek wi laaf bout it’. Would you laugh, Madam PM? No? You don’t find it funny, do you? Well, Mr. Nicholson does.
And to add insult to injury, he is issuing threats to the same women whom he violated with his penetrative flexi-rape comments! What vulgarity and shamelessness! You, Madam PM, need to be decisive. You need to send a clear message that an apology cannot buy pardon for the trivializing of SEXUAL VIOLENCE. You have always prided yourself in being a voice for the poor, marginalized and voiceless. This is your opportunity to act on behalf of the many women and girls who have no voice of their own because powerful men like Mr. Nicholson have trivialized their plight and re-presented them as whining broads who “cyan tek a likkle joke and a likkle sex.” You, Madam PM, and not another, need to speak up for the countless women who walk the streets of Jamaica, haunted by the catcalling, grabbing, and description about the fatness, tightness, bigness (and whatever other descriptions he finds suitable to give; especially if she seem unwelcoming to his invasion) of her most intimate parts from men who, like Mr. Nicholson, think “a nuh notn”. They are depending on you to say to Mr. Nicholson (by firing him) that he would not make light of their suffering and tacitly encourage other men, through his utterance to see rape as but a light affliction and something to laugh about (especially not in the hallowed halls of parliament). You cannot simply give him a “naughty boy” slap on the wrist like you have done with Azan, Paulwell et al and say you accept his apology.
Will you side with Mr. Nicholson and send a message that there are no consequences for wrong doing once one has money and access to power? Or will you stand with all those women (and men) who have ever experienced rape and send the clear message that under Jamaica’s first female prime minister, the issue of rape will be taken seriously? A refusal to act decisively and with alacrity on this matter will make you party to his transgression and will place you on the wrong side of history forever.