Gender, Sexuality and Feminism in the Caribbean: Transdisciplinary Engagements

Guest Editor's Note

by Halimah A. F. Deshong

Pages 1-11

Debating Sex Education: The Politics and Discursive Framing of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Barbados

by Latoya Lazarus

Pages 12-37


Abstract Serious dialogue about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) rights remains pertinent today in the Caribbean, as elsewhere in the world. This is due to the direct and indirect impact that notion of rights and their implementations, or not, continues to have on people’s everyday lived experiences. Moreover, rights talk also have the potential of uniting and dividing people along deep-seated ideological lines. This is repeatedly demonstrated in global debates around what ought to be considered as SRH rights as well as who should access such rights and in what form. In contributing to this broader dialogue, this article examines the construction and contestation of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) in public dialogues in Barbados, which, I argue, reproduce and contribute to transnational discourses on the subject. The article specifically highlights the ways in which CSE is both imagined and contested as a legitimate tool for enhancing and safeguarding the sexual and reproductive health rights and well-being of young people by a number of interest groups: from rights activists to conservative religious players. This research focuses on the presence and influence of religion in both setting the discursive and emotional terms of the public debate on the implementation of CSE. The arguments in this paper are based primarily on the critical reading of visual, oral and written text.

Key Words: sexual and reproductive health, discursive formations, comprehensive sexual education

Tracing Race and Gender in Domestic Violence Social Support Work in Trinidad and Tobago

by Kendra-Ann Pitt

Pages 38-64


This paper examines how race and gender are integrally linked in domestic violence social support services in the Caribbean. This analysis is drawn from twenty-eight (28) semi-structured interviews with domestic violence social support workers from Trinidad and Tobago. I argue that domestic violence social support work is a site of racialisation, illustrating how praxis draws on interlocking ideas about gender and race embedded in Trinidad and Tobago’s postcolonial context. I suggest that race can be traced in support workers’ narratives in three key ways: through the dichotomisation of Indian and African gendered experience and performance, the significance of the domestic sphere as a site of this dichotomisation, and the culturalisation of domestic violence.

Key Words: domestic violence, race, gender, support work, social work, Caribbean

What Caribbean Feminist Political Anthropology does with Blind Meni and an Elephant

by Gabrielle Hosein

Pages 65-90


This article challenges androcentrism in Caribbean political anthropology and political science, highlighting how it invisibilises masculinist hetero-patriarchal resilience in Anglophone Caribbean statehood. It argues for regendering both Caribbean political science and political anthropology to a greater extent than undertaken to date in order to counter the misrecognition, of what politics is and how it is constituted, that comes from gender blindness. Drawing on approaches foundational to both feminist political anthropology and Caribbean feminist scholarship on politics, it highlights the themes and analytical intersections as well as key critiques of the state and citizenship that become visible through such a regendered lens. The article then outlines an example of Caribbean feminist political anthropology thematically defined by transnational Caribbean feminist struggles in relation to elections and campaigning, policy-making and implementation, constitutional law, state bureaucracy, and civic and political leadership. Methodologically, these themes were treated, not as ‘different parts of the elephant’, but as connected instantiations of contemporary masculinism governing the multi-issue lives of Caribbean women. Drawing on the study, Negotiating Gender, Policy and Politics in the Caribbean: Feminist Strategies, Masculinist Resistance and Transformational Possibilities, the article therefore presents both a critique of and an alternative to the paucity of approaches which are blind to the elephant in the room in Caribbean politics and therefore fail to regender the androcentrism and masculinism in thought and power to which Caribbean feminists have been pointing all along.

Key Words: Caribbean feminist political anthropology, ethnography, elections, policy making, constitutional law, state bureaucracy, women’s leadership, women’s movements, masculinist resistance

Participation in Organised Sports and Delinquent/Problem Behaviour among High School Boys in Jamaica and Barbados: A Socio-Historical Analysis of Prevalence and Associated Factors

by Corin Bailey, Julian Cresser and Charlene Coore-Desai

Pages 91-114


The continued involvement of the young in delinquent activity means that a major challenge facing Caribbean criminologists, is the identification of factors that may facilitate, or deter such behaviour, so as to propose suitable avenues for intervention. Although it is generally assumed that involvement in sports acts as a deterrent to delinquent behaviour, empirical evidence to support this claim in the case of the Caribbean is completely absent. Using a quantitative methodology, this study examines this issue among a sample of Jamaican and Barbadian high school boys. Contrary to a number of empirical findings, we found increased levels of sports participation to be a significant predictor of delinquency. This has significant policy implications for Jamaica and Barbados since to date, the push towards increased participation in sports among high school children has been undertaken without empirical knowledge of its short and long-term effects.

Key Words: delinquency, sport, Caribbean, policy

‘Unbearable Knowledge’: Sexual Citizenship, Homophobia and the Taxonomy of Ignorance in the Caribbean

by Charmaine Crawford

Pages 115-144


While discussions on sexual citizenship have been framed through the fight for rights and fair treatment for sexual minorities, in this paper, however, I will consider how sexual citizenship is imbued with epistemological meaning and significance based on how knowledge (what is known) is produced and how ignorance (lack or gap in knowledge) is used within the matrices of power to disadvantage homosexuals in the Caribbean. This needs to be addressed because too often homophobia and transphobia are viewed as monolithic occurrences which limits any hermeneutical interrogation or inquiry about behaviours or practices that reproduce and justify inequality in the first place. From a critical queer feminist perspective in the first section of the paper, I will interrogate sexual citizenship and the role that hegemonic political power plays in legitimatising and de-legitimatising sexual citizens within a nation based on race, gender and sexuality. In the second section of the paper, I problematise the relationship between unbearable knowledge, as introduced by M. Jacqui Alexander, and the taxonomy of ignorance, as theorised by Nancy Tuana (2006), in order to uncover how prejudice and discrimination arise in complex ways to devalue same-sex intimacy and to promote heterosexual citizenship in the Caribbean. In the third section of the paper, I will draw on the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women based on qualitative interviews conducted from focus groups in order to explore the challenges these women face in exercising their sexual rights as a result of discrimination and wilful ignorance operationalised through the state, religion, law and in wider society. LBT women are constantly negotiating their right to self-determination and desire to freely express themselves amidst dominant ideologies and structures that sustain heteropatriarchy. These women’s acts of resistance are complicated by the ways in which their knowledge and experiences are invalidated or silenced by untruths produced on both an individual and institutional level through the taxonomy of ignorance. Thus, homophobic and transphobic acts should not simply be seen as intolerance to queer existence, but instead they are a part of a heterosexist logic that informs how intimate life is intertwined with state power in determining who belongs or does not belong to the nation.

Key Words: sexual citizenship, gender, sexuality, homophobia, transphobia, LGBTQ, Caribbean, taxonomy of ignorance, unbearable knowledge

Exploring Ethics and Gender in Corporate Organisations in a Caribbean Context: Does Gender Truly Matter?

by Philmore Alleyne and Cheryl Cadogan-McClean

Pages 145-172


Business ethics is the branch of ethics which is concerned with the determination of right and wrong behaviour in a commercial context (Cowell 2007). In the Caribbean, the need to be ethical in business is just as important as in any other setting. This article is primarily concerned with reviewing the state of the literature addressing the influence of gender on ethical decision-making within the Caribbean context with the intent of proposing a direction for future work on the area within corporate settings. This paper discusses ethical decisionmaking theories, reviews the research literature on the influence of gender on ethical decision-making, and explores the ethical decisionmaking of leaders and employees in cases of failure in Caribbean organisations. It concludes with the recognition that the absence of gender analysis in ethics research especially in corporate settings is a limitation which needs to be addressed given the far-reaching consequences of such behaviour for the proper functioning of work organisations, the economy and the society as a whole.

Key Words: ethics, gender, Caribbean

Sampling LGBTQ Discrimination in Trinidad and Tobago – Perception or Reality?

by Jacqueline Stephenson and Paul Balwant

Pages 173-201


Discussions about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons have been ubiquitous in the 21st century. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the few jurisdictions in the Englishspeaking Caribbean region where efforts have been taken to decriminalise homosexuality. Notwithstanding this, disparate treatment persists for those who identify as LGBTQ, hence, the objectives of this study are to investigate attitudes of a select group of Trinidadians towards (1) homosexuality, (2) discrimination against sexual minorities, and (3) legislation prohibiting disparate treatment against members of LGBTQ communities. Using a sample of 277 undergraduate students, the findings show that participants generally did not perceive themselves to be homophobic, further the belief that sexual minorities need greater legislative protection was positively related to acceptance of homosexuals, the acknowledgement of the negative impact of homophobia, and the entitlement of equal rights for all citizens. Religion, race and culture were also important factors as it relates to attitudes towards sexual minorities and related legislation. This study contributes to a growing body of research relating to factors affecting discrimination against members of LGBTQ communities. This exploratory study unearths challenges faced by LGBTQ persons in Trinidad. Further, it lays the foundation for future studies on LGBTQ communities in Trinidad. Limitations, suggestions for future research and practical implications are also outlined.

Key Words: LGBTQ, attitudes, discrimination, legislation, Trinidad and Tobago

Gender in Caribbean Fisheries: It’s the Women’s Turn – Commentary

by Patrick McConney, Vernel Nicholls and Bertha Simmons

Pages 202-224


Fisheries and gender scholars, as well as fisheries managers, overlook gender as a research and operational issue in Caribbean fisheries. Yet, gender in small-scale fisheries is of critical importance to Caribbean development; marine resource sustainability; food security and nutrition; and human well-being. We briefly review gender in the global fisheries literature and in Barbados fisheries data before reporting on a pilot test of fieldwork methods among female fish vendors at the Oistins fish market in Barbados. Women play important roles in the harvest, postharvest and supporting services in the Barbados fishing industry.