A long-time women’s rights activist is concerned about the current administration’s reluctance to place women’s rights issues on its agenda.
In fact, outgoing president of the National Organization of Women (NOW) Marsha Hinds believes it was only a matter of time until the scourge of sexual violence and harassment spilled over into the country’s tourism industry.
She told Barbados TODAY that despite persistent and continuous agitation across the region, Governments continue to be hesitant in addressing the “woman question”.
“We’ve never really had a mainstreaming of gender issues and now it is affecting the bread and butter issues because you have tourists who are saying to you that we are uncomfortable with the level of violence, and the world has moved past us,” said the activist, who now resides in Canada.
“When you are on the streets in Canada, nobody is cat-calling you. When you go down into the subway, nobody is telling you about your anatomy and how it looks when the high winds pass through the metro. It is just not acceptable, it’s not done. So when they leave these environments and come to the Caribbean and experience something that is quite different from their day-to-day expectation, it is jarring.”
Barbados’ tourism industry has been under scrutiny over a recent incident in which a woman was assaulted and raped when her Lower Carlton, St James villa was burglarized.
The fallout has been exacerbated with the release of an article in the international media pointing to the island as a place where sexual harassment is rampant.
“It is not surprising that this is where we are and it will be where we continue to be until we start to place importance and understand that these issues are not just peripheral things that affect women, but that they are economic issues, that they are development issues and we need to have conversations about what is happening in Barbados,” Hinds said.
According to the women’s rights activist who is now working on a project called Operation Safe Space, there will continue to be complaints from locals and visitors if post-colonial mindsets that sexualized women are not properly confronted.
“Every Barbadian knows that we have a problem with street harassment and if that is now feeding into our ability to preserve our tourism product, the Government has an obligation and a responsibility to say this is how we are going to tackle that issue,” Hinds argued.
“So really the parochial issues are tied into the policy and the policy is tied into just that lack of will that we are seeing from our policymakers.
We can do all that we continue to do to continue to keep the level of interest and these issues [in the forefront] at the level of advocacy, but until the Government meets us right there, I really think that we are not going to get much further.