Thousands of women in seven Caribbean countries participated in the #ReclaimOurStreets march of regional solidarity on March 11, 2017 as part of the #LifeInLeggings movement which started with the sharing of stories on social media. We celebrated the success of Tambourine Army’s Survivor Empowerment March and its positive impact on women and girls in Jamaica. The Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Dominica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago all exceeded the worldwide average for rape according to the 2007 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. Gender-based violence is a pervasive issue throughout the region, and women — survivors, advocates, and leaders — continue to work toward its eradication.
On March 14, 2017, we received news of the arrest of WE-Change Executive Director and Tambourine Army Co-founder Latoya Nugent by members of the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the charge of “use of a computer for malicious communication” under the Cybercrimes Act. We have learned that this is a direct result of her response to sexual violence against women, naming survivor-identified perpetrators. It is our understanding that one named person has used personal connections and power to intimidate and victimize a self-identified Black Feminist Lesbian.
Latoya Nugent has amplified the voices of survivors of sexual abuse. Her work is critical to the eradication of sexual violence in Jamaica, and essential to sustainable effort to rid the Caribbean of gender-based violence. We support Tambourine Army’s radical social justice work to protect women and girls, fight for justice, and create an environment conducive to the healing of survivors.
We call for state condemnation of the abuse of human rights defenders and overt state commitment to the protection of their right to “enjoy all social, economic, political and other rights and freedoms in practice” and to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action” as stated in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The law must not become a perpetrator’s weapon, used to silence survivors or their advocates. We demand state recognition and redress of the stigma and discrimination experienced by victims of sexual violence, particularly when attempting to report. There is a need for protection of survivors from criminalization and (re-)victimization, and we call upon the state to work with civil society to develop the necessary policies and systems.
We stand in solidarity with Latoya Nugent, recognize the power and importance of her work, and with her family, colleagues, and community. We encourage all allies in Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the world to not just stand with her, but join her in this most necessary work of providing safe spaces, ongoing support, and access to justice for survivors of rape and all forms of sexual violence. We join our voices to the statement from Caribbean People of Canada and the U.S. in support of women organizing against sexual abuse in the region.
Bahamas Sexual Health and Rights Association (BaSHRA)
Liann Key Kaighin
Bahamian organizations and individuals are encouraged to sign the statement by using this form.