No one can ignore the continuously deteriorating crime situation in the country. In recent times, we have had to cope with gang violence, murders and suicides in doses hitherto unknown. In the last few weeks there has been a flurry of sexual crimes that have raised the ire of the entire nation and drawing comment and condemnation even from the Prime Minister.
It looks like someone has declared open season on women and the attackers seem to make no distinction as to the age or physical condition of their intended victims, or even where they will strike. Two teenage girls were assaulted in their home, another was set upon on a beach. Then there is even a case of a police officer handcuffing a woman and raping her at gunpoint and now a near centenarian of Micoud, another victim of a sexual act.
This latter incident clearly reveals the sickness that is prevalent in this country of ours which has to be attended to as a matter of urgency. We can no longer claim to be a civilized country when sexual assaults on women have become so prevalent. To date, Police report 58 incidents of sexual assault on women for the year so far. This represents a serious blot on the character and integrity of our country.
It is clear that there is a serious obsession with sex in St Lucia, judging from the numbers of cases we see in the court system and in police reports, numbers we are told that constitute just a tip of the iceberg, because so many women refuse to report sexual attacks committed against them for fear of being stigmatized, among other reasons. The involvement of school children in early sexual activity is another worrying aspect of the problem that cannot be ignored.
Usually, when matters start to get out of hand, especially matters of a criminal nature, we tend to immediately call for the strengthening of laws to deal with the offenders. But in the case of St Lucia, we can find no punitive measure that has been introduced in the fight against crime in recent years that has had the desired effect. Did we not enact tougher laws for gun crimes, that made provision for jail terms and heavy fines for those convicted? And are these crimes not still with us?
So where do we go from here? Surely we cannot throw our hands in the air as though helpless. We believe that one of the first objectives of punishing offenders must be to ensure that the punishment meted out not only fits the crime but also serves as a deterrent to future offenders. Unless we are prepared to make that kind of statement, we are merely wasting time passing new laws.
We also need to do some kind of study to determine why we are at the stage that we are now at with such an alarming increase in sex crimes. What is it that is driving so many of our men to attack women, even old women to satisfy their sexual cravings. We refuse to accept the often cited excuse that women bring sexual assault onto themselves.
We have previously recommended a return to the days when civics—the rights and duties of citizenship–was taught in our schools, which gave young boys and girls an early introduction into the world of good manners, behaviour and responsibility. Religious instruction too was once an important element of juvenile training helping to produce men and women of good breeding. By throwing all this out of the window, we have started instead to produce little monsters who are now bent on terrorizing their own people in ways never before experienced in this country.
We wait to see whether the powers that be are prepared to institute the measures that will help stop this latest national outrage.