Campbell: “Don’t ask me about rapes”

Social services is about “poor people” and “social assistance”

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Frankie Campbell yesterday refused to speak about the increase in reported rape cases last year and said he was advised as minister to stay out of “other people’s business”.

Outside the Churchill Building, Campbell was asked about the six percent increase in rape cases in 2018 compared to 2017.

He shook his head and pushed the microphones and other recording devices of reporters away with both hands.

“Someone told me earlier this year [that] there are 12 months in the year,” said the minister, who continued to push away reporters’ recording devices even as he spoke.

“Spend the first six months minding by business; the next six months staying out of other people’s business and I’d be fine.

“Don’t ask me about rapes. Try to keep me out of other people’s lanes.

“I like to talk about my stuff; don’t ask me…”

As minister of social services, Campbell oversees a ministry that is responsible for leading the state effort to help the most vulnerable in society and setting the policy agenda for issues such as the advancement of persons with disabilities, gender equality and family affairs, poverty alleviation, as well as social safety net and assistance programs.

Pressed on whether he believes his ministry has a role to play in addressing the issue, the minister responded, “You are talking about crime.

“You are talking about crime prevention. Social services is about poor people who need food; people who need social assistance…

“You can see I am trying to avoid that. I don’t avoid talking to you, but I want to stay in my lane.”

According to statistics released by the Royal Bahamas Police Force this month, rapes increased from 52 cases in 2017 to 55 cases in 2018.

Police did not break down those incidents by sex, but, international studies conducted over the years, including those done by the Inter-American Development Bank have noted that intimate partner violence and rape “disproportionally affect women and are highly underreported”.

Despite the increase last year, incidents of reported rape last year remain the lowest in four years.

But it remains unclear if this was the result of fewer rape incidences, or fewer matters being reported.

There were 71 rapes recorded in 2016, 87 cases in 2015, and 75 in 2014.

While Campbell refused to respond to questions yesterday on rapes in the country, he was vocal earlier this month on the need for the government to address marital rape legislation.

During the 2019 New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade, Campbell told reporters that the government will give attention to the issue.

“It is being advocated to the international community and we don’t exist in a vacuum, so we have to continue to talk about it,” the minister said.

At the time, Campbell also said communication was ongoing with international groups such as the United Nations’ Committee to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on the issue.

Campbell has sat as minister for social services for more than five months.

He was reassigned from the Ministry of Transport and Local Government to the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development last July.

In addition to Campbell, the prime minister reassigned Marco City MP Michael Pintard and, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and Seabreeze MP Lanisha Rolle.

Wells was reassigned from the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources to the Ministry of Transport and Local Government, while Rolle was reassigned from the Minister of Social Services and Urban Development to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.

Pintard, the former minister of youth, sports and culture, was named the new minister of agriculture and marine resources.