By Linda E. Edwards
The Laventille Hills east Port of Spain area earned a reputation, deservedly or not, for high crime against persons, drug involvement, gangs, knife fights and shootings and so on, and for years, army and police units have focused on east Port of Spain in an attempt to stamp out “crime”. People are still dying there at a high rate, higher than the norm for the country. Central however, is emerging as the SEX crime capital of the country, for crimes against children.
This week’s quota came from the fifty year old yet to surrender teacher, accused of fondling a six year old in his class. It also came from the father and son businessmen charged with having sex with a twelve year old relative. There was also a report of a physically handicapped girl, a minor, who was being used as a prostitute, “sold” was the word the papers used. Perhaps the last two are the same case.
Going just a bit further back, we had Amy Anamuthodo and Sean Luke, and a bit further back still, the five year old child who was being used as a prostitute by men in the village, Central again.
I want to go back to the 1980’s when the video “Shattered Lives” was made. That movie, and its glaring light on child sexual abuse, came about as the result of a girl in Central committing suicide because of repeated sexual assault by her father, and she not having anywhere to turn. I remember well the concern on the faces of businessmen who attended the initial meetings of the project. They were very uncomfortable with the situation, and recognized that something had to be done. There was a sense of urgency about them.
The committee had talked of getting police officers sensitized to this sort of crime, of working closely – police, social workers and the business community to do something about these horrendous cases. Some of that may be seen now in police and judges responses to reports of these crimes
The businessman charged in the recent ‘father and son’ case of abuse against a relative must have been in his early twenties, and his young son a mere tot when that video was made.
Something has happened to this place, something that has eroded the societal values that most people used to subscribe to. We seem to have gone from aberration to something closer to standard procedure. A frightening situation if ever there was one. In Central, the number of mandirs, temples and churches seem almost to rival the number of houses. Yet, the morality of no sexual tampering with your daughters (The Shattered Lives Case), and not having intimate relations with children seem to stand entirely outside the religious experience.
It is troubling also, that in this section of the country, people seem to know what is going on, and hardly do anything about it, until a glaring case that cannot be ignored hits the headlines. Central is also the place where the Santa Maria Hotel is operated. The owner was charged with bringing in prostitutes from Venezuela for the satisfaction of his customers. The women were just deported. All the men who patronize the place must have known this. Such a place can adversely affect the moral climate of the whole area.
This is not to say that all the recent sex crimes in Central stem from the hotel being there, but certainly it seems to me, that the moral climate has shifted somewhat; has shifted all over the nation, and the world, but Central seems at the weakest point of the fault line. Houses of prostitution, whorehouses, do affect a neighbourhood adversely. Men staggering away from those places could cause decent people to bolt their doors and make sure their daughters are inside. The neighbourhood goes downhill.
So that a teacher in Central is now a fugitive for fondling a six year old, and he was reported to be hiding out at a relative’s house. What does that say about the relative? (The Unabomber’s brother turned him in – USA, a mother who realized that her son had filed a false robbery and kidnapping report, turned him in – San Fernando.) A father and son are charged with jointly using A REALTIVE as a prostitute since she was twelve years old, and Amy’s mother is charged along with her stepfather of sexually abusing a four year old. Add the child prostitute, aged five, being sold by her mother daily in the village, and its time, I think that such stalwarts of sociological analysis in the community as Mary King and Selwyn Ryan, should take up residence in Central, and, armed with support from the Social Welfare Ministry and students from UWI’s sociology classes, attempt to find out just why there is what seems like an epidemic of child sexual abuse in the belly of the country. We sometimes spend a lot of time talking about Caricom and Guyana, while the rice basket of the country, with its newer sources of excess wealth, is going to hell, along with the innocence of our daughters.