On Monday, 9 September 2019, the first of five country workshops under the theme “Rethinking Masculinity, Understanding Gender Equality as a Means of Ending Gender-Based Violence in Caribbean Schools”, opened in Trinidad and Tobago under the auspices of the CARICOM Secretariat, with support from the European Union’s 10th EDF Crime and Security CARIFORUM Project, and the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), Trinidad and Tobago. This initial workshop will last for two days at the Office of the Parliament, Trinidad and Tobago.
We are sure that we can all be better people. Belize is one of the five countries in this Caribbean project, and we are sure the workshops will produce/disseminate information that will help our youth better understand themselves, why they behave the way they do and why some behaviors need to be changed. No culture is perfect; we should always be open to new ideas; and we should select the ones that can help us become better.
A lot of who we are is animal DNA. All animals have a survival instinct, a need for food and sex and territory, and in the forest animals go about achieving their ends by following the laws of the jungle. Human beings, the most cerebral animal on the planet, over time have developed laws by which to live. These laws are generally the same all over the world. For example, every country and respected culture has a law against murder. There are also small, and not so small, differences. For example, some countries condemn homosexuality and some don’t.
Caribbean leaders will, at these workshops, seek to reeducate our youth based on recommendations from a “Masculinity and Violence Report” commissioned by the CARICOM Secretariat in 2012. It is expected that the Caribbean leaders who have endorsed the program will have had in-depth discussions with all the local stakeholders on all the new behavioral changes they want to introduce.
We note the involvement of the European Union as one of the supporting agencies of the program. That group of countries is known to insist that countries that get their assistance follow their laws and their guidelines on cultural behavior. The countries that form the European Union have all abolished the death penalty and put away corporal punishment, and they want us to do likewise.
What Caribbean leaders are doing is important; you would have to live in a cocoon not to know that the fabric of our societies, in the Caribbean and some Central American countries, is weak. Our countries have descended into decadence without us ever having attained any kind of economic prosperity. Not only are we poor, but we are also among the most violent bloc of nations on the planet.
Keeping the focus on culture, the workshops are geared primarily toward “culturing” our male youth so that they have more respect for women, more respect for those who express their sexuality differently, and less acceptance of physical violence as normal male behavior.
The last effort is sure to be wasted if we do not do something about our justice system. No amount of new culturing will keep our male youth from violent behavior if the state does not do its duty. There is an incentive for every crime. The incentive for a thief to break into a house lies within the house’s walls. When the state punishes those who commit vicious crimes it takes away from citizens who have been grievously psychologically or economically wounded, the incentive for a response which could be labeled as revenge.
This is not a call for capital punishment, although that is not a dead issue in any country. The British abolished the death penalty in the 1960’s, but a recent spike in murders has more than 50% of their people clamoring for the return of the hangman’s noose. We have a serious “conviction” problem. Our country must increase its efforts to find persons who commit murder and subject them to the punishment prescribed by the state for this crime.
There are two responses for bloody murder: one, the families and friends of the victim say they will leave the matter to God; two, the families and friends speak of vengeance, or harbor it in their hearts. There are more people in the latter group. It isn’t hard to trace when Belize stopped solving murder cases. It is also not hard to trace when murders in Belize started increasing. Murders in Belize started increasing when Belize stopped solving murder cases.
These countries that ordered us to abolish the death penalty and corporal punishment, they are relentless in their pursuit of solving murder cases. They refer to unsolved murders as cold cases, but they never burn the files. Has Belize ever solved a cold case?
There are reasons why Belize isn’t solving murder cases. The book, Like Bush Fire, says one failure is that our police are poorly trained and the authors spend a great deal of time explaining what is needed to get our officers up to par. The book also, in the space of nine bullet points, says twice that there are experienced police officers who deliberately contaminate and ruin cases.
Corrupt cops cannot exist in a country where there are no corrupt political leaders. Our country is corrupt. Our political leaders are not only raiding our country’s financial resources, but also researchers observe that they are interfering with the work of our Police Department. The third party, Vision Inspired by the People, saw this, and this is why in one of its fifteen points of reform, the party advised that we must “reinforce the autonomy of the police force in fighting crime.”
The state calls on us, demands that we do not tolerate injustice. Our weak justice system is at the root of many of the murders our young males commit. We repeatedly fail to serve justice and we are reaping a bitter harvest.
Rethinking masculinity most likely will help make our male youth give our women the respect they deserve, and become more tolerant of those who have same sex attractions, and that is good. However, no quantity of culture change will make them less violent if the state doesn’t do its duty. The state’s duty is to deliver justice. Our record says we are not doing so.