In writing this article, I would firstly like to pay tribute to the late Asami Nagakiya, a Japanese citizen, but arguably, a Trini at heart; a lover of Trinidadian culture, especially our steel pan. I further want to mention and to remember the victims of rape, murder and gender based violence, regardless of whether the victims were male or female.
On February 10, 2016, the body of Asami Nagakiya, a Japanese citizen was found in the Queen’s Park Savannah, in Port of Spain. After an autopsy was conducted, it was found that she was strangled to death. Tributes have been pouring in as this young lady’s love for Trinidad and Tobago culture saw her travelling from her home country of Japan, to T&T to participate in the festivities as well as to play steel pan (the national instrument) with a local steel band.
The Mayor of Port of Spain, His Worship Raymond Tim Kee, on commenting about the death of the young woman, commented that “…women have the responsibility to ensure that they are not abused.” (He neglected to point out however, the role and responsibilities of men to NOT rape and commit murder).This comment, and other comments in his statement, has prompted widespread backlash, as well as support, dividing the country’s opinion on this issue.
The full video of his comments may be viewed here (courtesy CCN TV6).
At the time of speaking, the goodly mayor began making assumptions about the victim being raped. However, at the time of speaking, the autopsy performed indicated that she was strangled to death. No rape was mentioned. However, the mayor continued that you must “let your imagination roll” thus, ignoring the facts of the report conducted.
The mayor’s comments went on to be covered by The Washington post, The Japan Times and the Antillean Media Group.
“I apologize, but people agree with me”
Women’s rights advocates, feminists, politicians and civil society have harshly condemned the words of the mayor. Subsequently, he issued an apology via a statement which included the following:
“His Worship the Mayor unequivocally apologises to women and the national population who were offended by remarks attributed to him following the death of Carnival visitor and mas player, Asami Nagakiya. Mayor Tim Kee says his comments were completely misconstrued and one particular headline unfortunately stated ‘PoS mayor criticises women’ drawing fire even before the article was read. Mayor Tim Kee said he advised women to take responsibility and protect themselves, as so many women are the victims of abuse at the hands of others.”
The statement went on saying that the mayor “…has also received calls of support from several women agreeing with him on the lack of modesty displayed by some women and girls on the streets during Carnival.”
Many have rejected this apology offered by the mayor, saying that instead of being heartfelt, he paid lip service, opting to eventually revert to his original stance. An online petition circulating calling for the resignation of Mayor Tim Kee has garnered (at my last check) approximately 6000 signatures.
Religious leaders to the rescue!
The mayor’s comments about this matter, which barely acknowledged the horrendous crime that took place, were targeted at women’s behaviour, symptomatic of a wider issue of women-shaming in our country. We needn’t look any further than the evangelical right wing that operates in this country, or religious leadership in general. I feel like I must quote verbatim from an article by the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, titled Religious Leaders support Tim Kee:
“Pentecostal Pastor Dr Winston Cuffie, in a strongly worded statement, condemned the behavior of women during Carnival, saying Carnival highlights that women are their own worst enemies…Cuffie continued, ‘Carnival is all about the sordid, callous denigrating and exploitation of women by the dragging of their dignity, worth and value into the gutter. And the saddest part of this, is that the most ardent accomplice to this crime is the woman herself.’
Sat Maharaj, Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, stated unequivocally, that Tim Kee was right and did not need to apologize. Maharaj commented, ‘I agree with him (Tim Kee) that women’s vulgar and lewd behavior make them vulnerable to sexual crimes.’ ”
Interestingly, not one of these religious leaders attempted to condemn those who were doing the ‘exploitation.’ None of these religious leaders admonished MEN for not having self control, putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of women, thus exonerating men. In other words, they accepted it as fact that men are horny, randy individuals who, by nature have no self control, thus making it the woman’s responsibility to not get raped. Such an insinuation is an insult to every decent, law-abiding, respectful man who stands up for the rights of women, and I am appalled that the religious leadership of this country would spout such patriarchal and misogynistic vitriol, all the while trying to convince us, that they speak in defence of women.
Even our Prime Minister, the Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley, while admitting that the mayor may have “misspoken” continued by saying that there were no grounds for his removal. A photo of a Facebook comment made by Point Fortin mayor Clyde Paul has, at the time of writing, begun to circulate on the web. It continues to prove my point, and the point made by many in opposition to what the PoS mayor has said.
It is my hope that civil society does not let this issue rest, and that good sense prevails, and that national dialogue is started.
It is sad that many think nothing of a man wearing nothing but his boxers walking out into his porch (or even from yard), but cry foul if a woman should do the same in her underwear. It is sad that the accusations of lewd behaviour were directed to the women and not to the men. It is sad that the leadership of this country espouses Bronze Age beliefs and feelings towards women. It is sad that many women in this country accept and defend the patriarchal double standard that exists in T&T.
The picture below is my response to a woman who espoused these beliefs. I tried to be as respectful as I could, and address the issue.
Here are some articles and opinion pieces for further reading:
- Autopsy reveals Japanese pan player strangled
- Trinidad Carnival murder victim’s ‘vulgarity and lewdness’ helped lead to her death, mayor says; petition calls for resignation
- No, women are not responsible for their murders
- Women march to City Hall: Mayor Tim Kee must go
- Carnival Death: Tim Kee says women must protect themselves from abuse
- Religious leaders support Tim Kee