With authorities reporting an increase in rape and sexual assault cases, a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentarian and former educator is calling for a national dialogue on a sex offender registry.
The issue raised its head again recently when Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police William Yearwood called for information on sex offenders to be made available to the public.
However, Cynthia Forde told Barbados TODAY there ought to be some discussion among Barbadians on the controversial issue, even though she believes the country may have to go that route.
“I believe there should be a conversation in society,” she said.
“With the community conversation, we can get better feedback. I would not want to say up front you should tag the sex offenders, but eventually we may have to reach that stage. If you can go in the quiet of day or night and take advantage of a boy, girl, man, or woman’s body, then you should pay the consequences up front, whether in the media, or court of law.”
Forde’s BLP colleague, former Attorney General Dale Marshall, recently disagreed with a sex offender registry, saying the country was too small and the move would be counter-productive.
Although Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett is on the opposing political side, he sees eye to eye with Marshall on that point.
“I am 100 per cent for ridding Barbados of all sexual predators and paedophiles, but we have to be careful in a small society like Barbados when we point the fingers at these males – and it is mostly males – that we have the correct person. Because if for one reason or another that person is falsely accused, his reputation is damaged for life,” he cautioned.
“So we have to be careful that anyone accused of such infelicities is the correct person.”
Meantime, Forde, a former teacher and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, lamented that sexual assault was taking place in all strata of society.
She alleged that well-known people were engaging in that activity and using their positions of power to keep victims silent.
“It is not only at the working-class level, but across families at all levels of society, and people keep their mouth shut. Now, I haven’t really done my investigations or communicated this properly with anyone, but I know of some prominent members of society who have been accused of these activities, and nobody wants to push that envelope,” she said.
Forde gave the example of a woman whose boss repeatedly assaulted her and when she stood up to him, he belittled her.
“He told her, ‘you can call the police as much as you like. They know that I am a distinguished man in this society and no one is going to listen to you, the scum of the earth’.
“That really burst my heart. Eventually she had to leave the island, because she could not live with herself. She has a new life now, thank God, but those scars never leave anybody, male or female. In small children it is even worse….We must ensure these victims get the help they need, and for it to be better coordinated from the top, so these matters can be dealt with early,” she said.
Forde was adamant that offenders should be brought to justice, no matter their standing in society, while victims should be provided with rehabilitation, therapy and training, “because that is the only way they can fully recover”. (DH)