By Raffique Shah
February 15, 2021
I was wondering how many more candlelight vigils that seemed to be a genuine groundswell of public opinion on violent crimes against women would be staged in the name of abduction and murder victim Andrea Bharatt before two-by-two politicians sought to hijack what they would see as a mass movement they could ride for narrow self-interests, from photo-opportunities and media coverage to the prospect of political power.
One answer came last week Monday night at the opposition United National Congress weekly meeting. The party’s heir-persistent, Roodal Moonilal, called on the scores of communities that staged the vigils, which seemed to be non-partisan, to abandon any quest they had for limited goals such as justice for loved ones lost to violent crimes, and instead use their collective strength to help him push the ruling People’s National Movement ‘over the precipice’. Waxing warm, Moonilal said he had no doubt that the PNM would be booted out of office well before the end of their term. He stopped barely short of inviting his audience to stage a Trump-like insurrection when he inserted ‘by any constitutional means’.
Now, I have watched the vigils spread across this country, similar to the way the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement did in the USA, the latter triggered by the police on-camera strangulation of the hitherto unknown George Floyd. Having witnessed in my lifetime several mass movements, watched them ignite, explode, spread, and later die, I can lay claim to being knowledgeable on such phenomena. What I looked for in this instance was the ethnic composition of the protestors. In communities, especially remote districts, there was an Afro-presence, but it appeared to be small by comparison with other groups. However, those held in Port of Spain, and the many stops on the day of the funeral, featured a better mix of the many ethnicities that make this country the melting pot that it is, albeit one that sizzles at times, or ‘blows steam’ occasionally.
My reason for attempting to do this analysis is I wanted to see if violent crimes against persons—rape, murder, home invasion—would unite the victims regardless of their races. Because criminals do not discriminate when it comes to targeting victims. The bandit or burglar’s only pre-requisite is that his victim must have money or valuables that he can convert into cash. The rapist, on the other hand, is driven by two primal instincts—lust, which is innate to most human beings, except that the majority learn to control it, and the exercise of raw physical power over his victim, the intention being to inflict pain, terror, not sexual pleasure. This is why I find defining rape as a sexual offence is misleading. It is an act of violence against a person, the only difference being the degree of violence used.
Lecherous daddies, uncles, cousins, neighbours, family friends, bosses at workplaces, politicians and other influential and powerful men in society who impose themselves on their helpless victims, who brazenly say to their latest ‘conquest’, ‘Don’t tell anyone…they won’t believe you’, may not use violence during their invasion of the person. But the emotional scars they inflict on children—all too often, the victims are teenagers, even pre-teens—are worse than the physical scars the career rapists leave as reminders of their violent attacks.
I should add that from my vast experience at the University of Crime on upper Frederick Street, Port of Spain, where I spent 27 months observing and analysing criminals, I discovered that rapists are the low-lives of prison populations. And rapists who resort to murdering their victims in order to escape being identified and prosecuted, are considered the scum of society.
You see, most prisoners come from poverty-stricken backgrounds, so they can empathise with thieves and bandits. And outside of gangland murders, few such acts can be described as cold-blooded. Often, murderers unintentionally kill people, acts that they regret and for which they express remorse. Rapists, however, feel the heat from other incarcerated criminals because they all have mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives whom they love and respect. When you rape a woman, they can feel the hurt. So rapists are ostracised and are themselves raped in most prisons.
I have used the current wave of protests that are targeting violence against women to share my experience in prison, my abhorrence for rapists not because any of the recent victims of abduction/murder have been raped. We do not know that since the police have not revealed any such violations. But in the past, the vast majority of female victims of similar crimes have suffered double-indignity, hell, the sheer terror of being violated by their attackers before inevitably being murdered.
My hope is that men, most of all, unite to protect women from all forms of violence. And politicians I say this: do not pollute the protests with your dirty politics.