In today's Gleaner (Saturday, February 16, 2013), there was an article entitiled, "Slain 16-Y-O's Mom Charged". Felecia Bell, the 46-year-old mother of slain 16-year-old Martha Byrowe, allegedly facilitated a relationship between a 40-year-old man and her 16 year old daughter for quite some time now; from the deceased was under the age of (16) consent.Bell has been charged with two offences under the Child Care and Protection Act: "failure to report a child in need of care and protection and failure to exercise proper care and guidance to a child." I remember seeing this poor woman on television, incriminating herself, not even seeming to understand how she had acted against the best interest of her child.
Now, let me say upfront that I believe in the protection of our children. I further believe that those who compromise the well-being of our children should be held accountable. However, I want us, even as we hold them accountable, to examine the systems & environments that provide the opportunity for them to act in those ways. Women - poor women especially - tend to be complicit or active in the (sexual) abuse of their children. Being woman and being poor is double jeopardy and having children to care for, in addition, might be triple jeopardy.
So often, I have heard the argument, "why are these poor women having children for whom they are unable to care?" Well, seldom do those poor women have the cognitive skills to reason like their more privileged contemporaries. And, often, their sexual and reproductive rights are traded for economic survival or sometimes it is usurped by the men in their lives who are "allergic" to condoms or who will demand raw sex (non-compliance is sometimes dealt with, with busted lips, swollen eyes and financial blackmail). Perhaps not having that as part of one's own reality might abolish empathy but we must never silence those women who experience such or make them invisible. What we must begin to look at is how we can take proactive steps that will empower those women economically so that they have autonomy over their own sexuality and over that of their underage sons and daughters. While Miss Felecia Bell's actions against her child were wrong and must be repudiated, for me, the greater offense is the systems of entrenched patriarchy, sustained inequality and poverty that continue to rob women of their sense of value and women and their ability to attain financial/economic independence and viability. Her first crime was being woman; her second being poor and her third was acting against her daughter because of the former two.