Before the sky falls
June 6, 2004
THE Holy Book says, “Let who is without sin cast the first stone.” In matters of personal morality, Peeping Tom is extremely cautious. Who am I to judge the private morals of any individual without casting into the public glare my own personal failings? Let they who live in glass houses not throw stones!
And when it comes to moral entrapment, we are all victims. Man has come a far way since creation. Today, we send rockets into outer space, discover new planets, and go to places which centuries ago were thought of as belonging to the Gods.
We can build weapons of mass destruction, yet are annihilated by human desires, felled by the bullets of love, lust, greed and covetousness. This is the paradox of human existence, centuries of uplifting accomplishments chequered with human frailties.
How many powerful rulers have not found themselves helpless and intoxicated by the enticement of beauty? How many have not been in supplication in the face of love? The allure of beauty and desire has brought many to their knees. And this goes for both men and women.
When I first saw Mrs. Tom I decided that the world would have to wait until I won her favour. The sky could have dropped as far as I was concerned.
Who am I then to judge the personal morality of others? What am I but a simple man having all the fragilities that we come to associated with human beings. For these reasons, I am not going to throw stones at the private morality of others because my own morality is like the windscreens they make today, easily shattered. But when it comes to the public morality that is a completely different matter!
Those who are the torchbearers of private morality had better be careful their own flames do not burn them. We live in a small country. We must know of cases where teenage girls in our community got pregnant. We must be aware of how the neighbours would whisper and “bad mouth” that child. We ourselves may have been part of “looking down” on the promiscuous behaviour of others. But when it happens to us, when one of our young teenage daughters becomes pregnant, we do not like it when others throw remarks.
There were many people protesting outside of the High Court last Friday. It has taken Reeaz Khan to make all these groups suddenly realise that the age of consent is 12 years old.
For all these years that the law was on our books, it was surprising that there was no sustained campaign to have it amended. It had to take Reeaz Khan to force us into action. Are we proud of that?
The catalyst for change was present for a long, long time now. For years, we have been reading about young children being sexually abused by older men. For years we have been reading in the newspapers about men being taken to the courts for raping young, very young children.
Yet, I cannot recall any massive demonstrations outside of these trials.
Now that some groups have decided that a change in the law is necessary, I hope that the protests will continue. I want the protests to deal with the case of the 11-year-old child who recently got pregnant.
In fact, let us start making lists within our communities of all those persons who we knew were sexually active at age 13 and let us call for the men who had sex with these young, impressionable children to be charged with sexual abuse.
On Friday I asked an important question, whether the case now riveting public attention is the first known case whereby a 13-year-old had sexual relations.
And what is this sexual abuse that we are protesting? If the fact that a 13-year-old is sexually active constitutes sexual abuse, then I am afraid that sexual abuse in widespread in Guyana.
There are legal issues taking place within the court and I shall not be dealing with those issues. But there are also legal issues and moral issues involved in the protests outside of the courts. One legal issue is whether the child was abused. I have seen no evidence to suggest that the sexual relations were anything other than consensual and since she is above the age of consent, this speaks to the public debate on this score.
The charge of abuse being made therefore has to be made on moral grounds. And since morality is to a large part governed by religious mores, we need to look at what the major religions say. I am no expert on these matters but as much as I have been reading in recent days, all of the three major religions in Guyana - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam - do not state an age of consent.
Under these belief systems, sexual consent can only take place following marriage. So whether Reeaz sinned is a matter for Reeaz and his God, not for us. We have no say in trying to judge him morally.
Was there not one person amongst that grouping out there protesting who had sexual relations prior to marriage? Do you mean that those persons out there were perfect maidens and gentlemen before they got married? But that too is none of my business.
Where human failure and weakness is concerned, we all are guilty? Had we not been guilty, then the age of consent would have been changed a long time ago. So when we protest for the law to be changed, let us at least admit our collective guilt that such a law is still on our books.
I expect the thunder to continue. I expect that the matters being protested are matters of principle and that we would move beyond the placard to debate.
But if we are publicly protesting child abuse, let us also protest against those two terrible cases over the past week where babies were killed. In one case the remains of a child was found buried under a pile of sawdust.
What can be more revolting than that? That is far more sordid, in my book, than anything I have read so far in the matter involving Reeaz Khan.
If we are beginning to take a stand against sexual predators, we cannot just say that this applies only to older men. What about the young boys who also have sex with young girls?
And what about young girls who tease young men? Let the campaign begin. Let it is be taken to the bus parks where schoolchildren assemble in the afternoons. Let it be taken to the Georgetown Seawall on Sunday afternoon where some of the things on display would shock you.
Let it be taken into the communities where there are unwed teenage moms. Let it be taken to those public events where young schoolgirls can be seen with grown men. But do not let it stop here.
Let the battle be taken to those nightclubs where there is lap dancing. There is a lot of work to be done before the sky falls.