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 Bahamas Commentary

2004-11-17 00:57:25

Bahamas Must Deal With Serious Internal Issues

We are quite convinced that the essence of hidden shame in this nation involves the extent to which youngsters are routinely taught to associate sex with money and other gifts.

We are quite certain that those Bahamians who are either living with, or dying from the HIV-AIDS epidemic know quite well why this is their fate.

We are not quite certain, however, that the rest of the population knows or appreciates the extent to which they are being obliged to pay for the fact, and consequences of HIV-AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

As always, the healthy will pay for those who are ill.

Today we also know that there are several social factors that contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. For example, many men and women have multiple sex partners, a practice that social and cultural norms condone and often encourage. For social and economic reasons, many women depend on men, and are therefore limited in their ability to negotiate safer sex practices. The high levels of sexual violence in some Caribbean countries and the early sexual initiation of youth also contribute to the spread of HIV.

And most assuredly, we also know that there is a connection between a certain type of tourism and the sexual transmission of disease. As noted, a common feature of many tourist areas is the increased presence of a commercial sex industry. Commercial sex work is widespread, well entrenched and increasing throughout the region.

And importantly, transactional sex also occurs, that is, sex for food, sex for school fees, and so on. Commercial and transactional sex may take place under a variety of circumstances. There may be short-term as well as fixed brothel workers, and mobile sex workers; they may be single and married, women and men. Disturbingly, too, there may be children involved as not only has sex tourism has grown, but children and adolescents are being pulled into trade of commercial and-or transactional sex. Male prostitution as evidenced by the occurrence of “beach boys' is also increasing in the Caribbean.

And we also know that sexual predators –including so-called “sugar daddies'- lead the pack that view young people as little more than racks of “fresh meat.'

And so, despite a plethora of jeremiads about what HIV-AIDS epidemic is all about- and despite the barrage of pleadings as to the destructiveness of this pandemic-scourge-there are any number of Bahamians who are apparently oblivious to consequences of the part they are playing in perpetuating this destructive process.

And tragically, this nation's youth population is at greatest risk. On any given day, parents, teachers and other caregivers are treated to a venomous menu of bad news and horror concerning the extent to which sexual predators are about their business of spreading disease, and bringing havoc to so many.

While the plaintive advertisements warn against “older men having sex with young girls', these clearly fail to take note of the fact that both boys and girls in The Bahamas, and elsewhere in this region, are routinely initiated into sex by men and women who are prepared to pay these adolescents.

We are quite convinced that the essence of hidden shame in this nation involves the extent to which youngsters are routinely taught to associate sex with money and other gifts. This phenomenon is par for the course in a society where it is said that money talks, and big money talks big.

Were it not for a conspiracy of silence between teachers, parents, and other caregivers, we are quite certain that truly decent and law-abiding citizens would have already risen up in righteous indignation concerning the abuse of children. How else, we ask, is anyone to make sense of the statistics which speak to the rising incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in youth, and the alarming extent to which the HIV-AIDS epidemic has taken up residence in the ranks of the young?

And how else, we would like to know, is it that more and more young women are being impregnated by Only God Knows Who, and practically nobody is ever charged with statutory rape? By now everyone should know that when some youngster comes forward and is pregnant, somebody did it.And the attentive public has a right to know who that someone is. We all know that whoever he is, he is a rapist, and perhaps also a disease vector.

Interestingly, the predator is usually quite well known to any number of people in the community. Some know him as the policeman. Some recognize him in the jitney driver. Others know him as the pastor. Some know him as a family man. Others know him as a pillar of the community. The fact of the matter he is also a sexual predator, and social menace. And herein lies the social pathology, while he is sometimes very well known, practically no one ever talks.

A part of the explanation for this sorry state of affairs is rooted in any number of small town hypocrisies, where sexual issues are very often pushed, as it were, out of sight, and out of mind. Sometimes the results can be quite tragic. There are tragic cases –where parents in denial concerning what was happening to their children- are forced to face facts when their children are tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. And most heart rending, are those occasions when they learn that it is HIV-AIDS.

This terror must stop.

Editor, The Bahama Journal

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