The sexuality of children, especially girl children, is an economic factor in homes where there is extreme poverty. Society has made laws which declare a specific age to be the age of consent. Before such an age, a girl child cannot legally consent to sex. So that, any male who engages in sex with a girl child who is legally underage is guilty of what they refer to in America as “statutory rape.” But, in homes where there is extreme poverty, starvation in fact, an underage girl child has a financial value out there in the street world where people bend and break the law in order to survive.
What the previous sentence is really saying is that there are adults – parents and guardians, who become desperate enough to make their underage children available to predatory males who can pay the price. (It should be noted that there are also predatory females.) We’re absolutely not talking about situations like the Maya cultures which have a tradition of having girl children marry years before the colonial law said they were of age to do so. We are talking about this urban situation which is around us in Belize City.
This “urban situation” is the product of economic arrangements which began with slavery two, three centuries ago and then proceeded into colonialism, until Belize’s political independence in 1981. The reality today is that in Belize we have a large amount of people who are unemployed and a larger amount of people who are below the so-called poverty line. There are an amount of Belizeans who are actually starving, and a larger amount who are hungry most of the time. Those who are hungry and starving are mandated to abide by the laws, most of which were written during colonial days and none of which take hunger and starvation into account.
Apart from the laws, we have a morality which has been established by religions, mostly out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The problem is that there are some of our citizens who have to become immoral in order to eat. Both the written law and our established morality say, for instance, that one is not to steal. But, it is neither illegal or immoral to starve. The reality of one who is starving, and may possibly at the same time be watching his/her children starve, is that law and morality become irrelevant to such a person.
By definition, I think, a man is supposed to provide for his woman and his children. Males who find themselves unable to do so within the orbit of the law and the accepted morality, abandon their children or become criminals. Since criminals are often killed or go to jail, even more children become abandoned. The burden of providing for these children then falls on women – mothers and grandmothers, and then it becomes a matter of survival by any means necessary.
The global system of capitalism, of which slavery and colonialism were component parts, makes allowance for there to be winners and for there to be losers. This is to put it mildly. Capitalism does not care how many people suffer and how many people die as long as the competitive marketplace is allowed to function in as unfettered a manner as possible. At the same time, capitalism, whose exponents have always sought to partner it with so-called democracy, features the winners making those laws and establishing that morality in accordance with which the losers must live, or die.
When the settlement of Belize began its capitalism centuries ago, all the winners were white and all the losers were black. As time went along, there were browns who were created, and some of these became winners. In Belize, the power structure does not want you to talk about race and color, because their official line is that all of us Belizeans are one and that Belize is a happy melting pot. In fact, the greatest apologist for the Belizean power structure once declared that “slavery in Belize was a family affair,” and he was the president of the Belize History Association, so no one said anything to rebut his absurd claim.
Anyway, an industry called tourism was introduced big time into this society where there were hungry and starving people about three decades ago. The sexuality of our girl children then became an asset which shot up in value. One night on the UBAD rostrum at Courthouse in the summer of 1970, Galento X Neal, in a moment of prescience and inspiration, had cried, “Mi bredda, tourism da whorism.” In 1970, there was very little tourism in Belize, but it was all around us in Central America and the Caribbean. Galento had traveled, and he had seen the ill effects of the industry. (In early August of 1970, in a sensationalistic article on UBAD, TIME magazine falsely ascribed the Galento X quote to yours truly, and thus it went down in history.)
In Belize today, a lot of older women are using revealing clothes, jewelry, and makeup to emphasize the sexuality of their girl children. For most women, this is just an exercise in liberation, I suppose, but there are aspects of this game which are deadly serious. More and more underage girl children are putting food on the table. It’s a case of some desperate women encouraging desperate behavior.
In last week’s edition of the newspaper published by the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), their propagandists brought up something written by Clinton Canul Luna which one of their columnists had brought up before, a couple months ago. (Most of the times I am the one who edits those of Canul Luna’s articles which are in English. Canul Luna, who spent most of his life working in the tourist industry in Acapulco and Cancun, is much more fluent in Spanish than he is in English.) Tourism in Mexico opened Canul Luna’s eyes to many things, and in the quote the UDP propagandists are attempting to use against him, and against this newspaper, by extension, he was saying what he was seeing where the corrupting of our girl children is concerned. What he had seen in Acapulco and Cancun, he was now seeing in Belize.
Our sources are telling us that evil things are taking place in Belize City today, and that a few of our taxi drivers are facilitators. I understand the ruling party’s need to discredit a newspaper which regularly publishes columns and editorials which criticize their officials and policies. But, the fact of the matter is that we had a problem with the corrupting of our girl children before, and tourism has made it worse. This is real.