Not all women can run away, as advised by Singing Francine. They are treated worse than dogs. They are treated with vindictiveness. They are ‘owned’ and dare not challenge the man or seek to pursue their own decisions or rights.
This week, we add Netanya Mohamdally to the list of women killed in public spaces, which includes Shannon Banfield (2016), Leslie Ann Gonzales (2017) and Anita Bahadur (2018).
Public spaces, like taxi stands, roadways and the like, become the third sphere in which we intimidate women. We beat them up in the confines of the shared home, we go to their jobs and now we intimidate and take their lives wherever we meet them. The violence waged is sudden and harm-inducing.
The case of Netanya Mohamdally is sad. In 2015, at the age of twelve, Netanya was reportedly raped by a twenty-four year old man. At that age, she cannot be responsible for any sexual act. A predator took his pleasure and screwed her life up. He is free and alive today.
Her mother intervened and reported it to the Police, who acted reasonably promptly. The case was called twelve times. In the midst of this trauma in 2016, she is deemed to be out of control and put into St Jude’s Home for Girls. She pays the penalty for the injustice done to her. No help when she acts out her frustration at being twice raped—physically and through the court delays.
At St Jude’s, she begins to turn her life around. The mother ostensibly held on to that, declines to relive the trauma, dropping the case in 2017. In 2018, she leaves the Home with CXC passes and unlike some, took a job while waiting to access a school place.
Less than six months after, she is killed. The initial public reporting focuses on her St Jude’s days—without the acknowledgement of her turn around—and the insinuation that she ran away to meet someone. Netanya tried to improve her lot but kept being put into pain by our uncaring. We must not be allowed to turn the page.
We should and must face our ugly nature. It is not good enough for us to do like Robert Kraft—the owner of the NFL club, who having been caught paying for oral sex with a young, nameless and faceless immigrant—and focus on the wrong done to our family and friends without a word about the wronged woman.
He affirmed: “I have extraordinary respect for women; my morals and my soul were shaped by the most wonderful woman, the love of my life…” He gets off the hook and the woman’s desire for a better life is crushed. As men, we have to own our stuff. We facilitate this horror by our silence if not our direct actions.
We bemoan Laventille but its crime situation has similar roots to Netanya’s: hard working mothers whose daughters were preyed upon by older men. In the early 80s, mothers migrated to find food for their children, the fathers moved on to other relationships and the abandoned children were fooled into believing that the taxi drivers, who plied them with baubles, were potential mates.
These ‘barrel children’ became mothers in their teens and their children and grandchildren are now the bane of our existence. Sadly, mothers still work long hours for pittances without support, the fathers move on and predators feast on our girls without consequence.
“The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”
The courts are not equipped to do better: the Magistrates’ Courts, starved of funds, still use manual records. Nearly half of all cases are adjourned three times or more. In the Chaguanas court, available records in the 2015-17 period show that only a fifth of the cases are disposed in less than three years.
St Jude’s Home, as a safety net, worked miracles and Netanya was turned around. But their fruit is compromised by lack of post-care facilities. The children, like Netanya, return to their horrible circumstances to eke out an existence.
Will we follow the example of Costa Rica and have day care systems that can break the cycle of poverty? These systems free the mothers up to work without fear of their children being left to the wiles of predators and provides work for other mothers in the community.
Will we resource our Magistrates’ Courts so that they can expedite matters? Will we restore hope for the Children’s Homes by providing more funds and psychological help?
Most children in these Homes are not ‘out of control’, they are ‘out of love’. Netanya’s mother loved her but could do no more. The children’s anger is a cry for acknowledgement for their personhood.
How can we ensure that fathers step up to their responsibilities and care for their children? How can we teach young men that women have a right to their bodies and that this should not trigger their rage to maim or kill them?
Every little bit helps. Retired El Do Blue school staff, Fasal Mohammed, reportedly hustles children into vehicles to get to school. The predators do not like that, but he is saving the children. What is the little bit we can do today?