No One Is Asking For It.
AS the world observes International Women’s Day (IWD), one daughter of the soil has launched a campaign against one of the scourges that continues to plague the lives of women all over the globe including Saint Lucia.
Domestic and sexual violence against women remains rampant and right here in Saint Lucia, the number of cases of rape is growing in number and severity.
Last year, numerous cases were reported including one where two teenage girls were gang raped at their residence in the north of the island resulting in the hospitalisation of one of them.
Another case which rocked the nation to the core was that of a woman in her 90s who was brutally raped at her house in Micoud.
Whilst these cases have resonated with locals, many have found it surprising and upsetting that not much awareness and effort has been placed on this year’s IWD.
However, Fiona Compton, daughter of the late former Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Father of the nation, Sir John Compton, has launched the campaign “Not Asking For It” to give a voice to the victims of such violence, many of whom remain voiceless about their ordeals.
The photographer/fashion artist/videographer by profession said the idea was the concept of a close friend of hers in the UK, fellow Saint Lucian Katarina Felicien who was inspired by the murder of Japanese tourist AsamiNagakiya who was a keen lover of the Trinidad carnival.
Magakiya who would travel to Trinidad annually to take part in the event and even took up the art of steel pan music was found one day after the festivities ended in bushes on Ash Wednesday, allegedly strangled to death.
Compton’s deciding moment for the campaign was when the Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee indirectly blamed the death on the victim saying: “You know before carnival I did make a comment about vulgarity and lewdness in the conduct and you know, some question was asked by one of the smart media people when I spoke of the things that I see some women do, assisted by men of course. But the woman has the responsibility to ensure that they are not abused.”
Kee went on to add: “It’s a matter of, if she was still in her costume — I think that’s what I heard — let your imagination roll.”
(Although Kee later apologised for his statements, a petition signed by over 8000 and a march against him forced him to resign from his position.
Compton said the former mayor is only a small part of the problem: “What he said is a sentiment or a stigma that is carried by men and especially women…in certain cases, more so women who believe it is a woman’s fault. There’s a difference between having awareness and it being a responsibility to take care of yourself and it being your fault…there is a line.”
Compton said her friend Felicien called her crying because this incident stirred up the memories of her two cousins, Chrystal St. Omer and Valarie Lord who were both murdered in the same fashion in Saint Lucia.
She said Felicien was extremely angered by Kee’s statement saying that he would feel differently had the victim been one of his loved ones.
This was when the campaign was born.
Compton said she wanted to make a statement that would not disappear overnight but would instead stand out and make a difference.
It was suggested to Compton to send her message using her hugely popular “On The Inside, On The Outside” campaign which is a number of minute long videos showing regular individuals living abroad longing to express themselves the “Caribbean way” when they listen to Soca music but are forced to remain reserved.
The artist said she jumped at the chance and began making new videos with a carnival twist: “The reason why I’m using the carnival costumes is to reference the Asami murder. The carnival costume is a huge representation of our culture worldwide. People look at the carnival as one of the main things that people recognise us by.
The costumes are revealing and people see women walking around practically naked, but it is no reason for women to be raped, killed or assaulted. It shows the dynamics of women. Of sexy women in the height of her sexiness in her costume when there’s nothing much left to the imagination, but there is much more than that…they are nurses, accountants, mothers. I wanted to highlight that and I thought it was important to show that it doesn’t mean that she’s asking for it”.
Compton said that she intends on moving away from the carnival theme as she wants to make the message span across a variety of cultures.
She said: “I want contributions from all kinds of people because at first it was Caribbean based because I am a West Indian woman so therefore I can tell that story. It may be more difficult for me to tell the story of a woman in a Hijab because I’m not Muslim so I want to tell the story of my culture first, but I still want to make it inclusive so I want to get more people involved and I’m working on getting contributions from around the world from South Africa, Japan, Canada, USA…all over.”
The campaign can be accessed at notaskingforit.com, the Facebook page “Not Asking For It” and the instagram page notaskingforitofficial. The sites will feature impactful videos, photographs, stories and the website will have apparel on sale including T-shirts and other merchandise. The proceeds will go in rotation to different charities, beginning with Saint Lucia.
Compton said all she hopes for is to break the stigma and culture of victim blaming.