It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to sit down and blog about the state of Sweet T&T (you know what they say about life getting in the way), but while I’ve been going about the business of freelancing and toddler-wrangling, I’ve been keeping an eye on the headlines blowing up my various social media feeds. What I’ve been seeing… it’s not good. Not good at all.
Amidst the concerns about a recession (and the attendant skyrocketing prices) and the chatter about Carnival (and the attendant skyrocketing prices), there’s been a disquietingly regular trend of stories regarding brutality towards children.
The first one to catch my eye involved six-year-old Jodel Ramnath, who you may recall, was shot and killed in Beetham Gardens while watching fireworks just a few minutes into the New Year. Poor Jodel wasn’t victimised just once, though.
Once the media found a photo of him posing in gold, the real story became whether the grieving family was involved in criminal activity. The public sentiment turned so sharply that his mother ended up defending her son and family outside of the St. James Forensic Centre, where she went to view his body.
Next up was the story of two Success Laventille students who were dragged out of a taxi and executed in broad daylight. That’s it. That’s all we had to go on when the news broke. Would you like to guess how long it took for people to read the word “Laventille” and assume that the victims had done something to deserve their fates?
It wasn’t long before another story emerged, indicating that the boys were simply caught in the middle of yet another absurd and brutal gang war. Then, people who actually knew them started posting touching tributes to Facebook, illuminating them as more than the usual suspects.
Since then, there’ve been a depressing number of stories about child sex abuse, including, but not limited to:
- A pregnant teen who’s not sure whether she was impregnated by her father or her uncle, the latter of whom remains on the lam with her, claims to be in love with her and expresses no fear of the police.
- A 13-month-old who was allegedly sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend and possibly a neighbour.
- A seven-year-old boy who was allegedly forced to perform oral sex on his grandmother for three years.
- A five-year-old girl who was allegedly filmed performing oral sex on her mother’s boyfriend.
It is February third and these are just the ones being reported. At the rate we’re going, we shouldn’t have much trouble surpassing last year’s 70 reported sex acts and serious indecencies committed against children. And then there are the murders.
There’s something very rotten in Denmark.
Let’s start with the fact that, depending on your religious beliefs, it is legal to marry a 12-year-old in Trinidad and Tobago. That is, you can legally consent to spend the rest of your life with someone before you’re old enough to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. If that sounds strange, consider the difference in reaction to reports of sexual abuse of a seven-year-old and one of a teenager. This is “after 12 is lunch” country, where teenage girls have taxi driver boyfriends, where children are taught to call everyone “uncle” and “aunty” and chastised for denying them hugs. It’s also a country where, a child’s address and hair texture can determine how much sympathy he/she is entitled to.
We can’t continue to cry out over these individual cases of injustice while ignoring the disgusting attitudes and social structures that make them possible. We can’t keep pretending to care about our nation’s children while turning a blind eye to all the ways we’re putting them in jeopardy.
We can’t have it both ways. So, you know, it’d be really great to see some meaningful change before the next headline drops.
Let’s start with that Marriage Act, shall we?