NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Advocacy group Rights Bahamas has called on the acting Director of Public Prosecutions Franklyn Williams and Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe to offer a public apology to all the girls who have been targeted with impunity by adult predators.
In a statement, RB also called on Attorney General Ryan Pinder to revisit the law to raise the age of consent, and clearly define a sexual act involving an adult and a minor as rape.
“We call upon these men to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution,” RB stated.
The statement follows comments by Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Franklyn Williams and Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe regarding a controversial unlawful sexual assault case involving a 40-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.
Both men have since sought to clarify their comments as public outrage over the matter deepens.
In its statement, RB said it was “appalled that those whose job it is to protect children, would rather use their positions of power to equivocate over and excuse the sexual abuse of minors”.
Read the full statement:
The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister of National Security both enjoy a national podium from which they could discourage the shameful practice of adults taking advantage of those too young to give informed consent. Instead, they made comments which can only serve to encourage further tolerance of such abominable behaviour, already at epidemic proportions in this country.
Their remarks displayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the intent behind the law against adults having sex with minors. The point is that there is a monumental disparity in the power dynamic between a grown man and a school girl, which must not be taken advantage of under any circumstances. The physical, emotional and psychological consequences for the child are enormous and often lifelong.
Also, both men need to understand that the unfortunate practice of victim blaming causes children harmed in this way to be afraid of coming forward, even more than they already are, given the culture of systemic violence against women and girls that prevails in this country. A 2016 United Nations report pointed to a “cultural normalcy” of violence against females in The Bahamas, which “often leads to underreporting as well as ridicule and stigmatization of victims who do come forward.”
Instead of doing all they can to reverse this trend by working to create an atmosphere of safety and trust for women and girls harmed by violence and sexual abuse, time and again, men in power have encouraged the continued silence of victims through their ill-informed, regressive and counterproductive comments.
For example, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle said in 2021 that the number of missing young women was the result of “adolescent females engaging in sexual intercourse” – language which places the blame squarely on the juvenile victims, instead of on the adult men who are guilty of the crime of unlawful sexual intercourse. This offence itself is a woefully outdated concept and reveals much about our attitudes as a country; when a man over 18 has sex with a child under 16, it should be called what it is: statutory rape.
A 14-year-old can’t drink, vote, or drive a car. Nor can a 16-year-old, yet our laws hold this as the age of consent. How on earth can such a child be held responsible for seducing a 40-year-old man? A girl or boy at 14 is a child – brain development won’t stop for another 11 years. A man of 40, on the other hand, is solely responsible for his decision to have sex with a minor.
It is normal for young people to display trust and sometimes affection towards adults. But this is not, and should not be interpreted as license to sexually exploit that child. As adults, we all have a sacred responsibility to safeguard the safety of all children and the sanctity of their bodies.
Internationally, 2022 is the Year of the Woman, but clearly it is not the year for women and girls in The Bahamas. We have seen women killed by their boyfriends, pulled out of their cars and beaten in the streets, denied relief from marital rape and mocked for not being ‘sexy’ enough. Now we are accusing them of inviting sexual criminals to break the law at their expense.
What messages are sending to our young women? It seems they are being told that they will continue to be second class citizens and no one will protect them – any crimes perpetrated upon them are their own fault.
The events of the past week have highlighted just how woefully backward we are as a country when it comes to protecting the safety and security of women and girls. We hope that this shameful display, and the outrage it has incited, can serve as a turning point.
Rights Bahamas calls on both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Minister of National Security to offer a public apology to all the girls who have been targeted with impunity by adult predators. We call upon these men to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.
We also call upon the Attorney General to revisit the law to consider raising the age of consent, and clearly defining a sexual act involving an adult and a minor as rape.