ALL AH WE IS ONE: Gals ‘n’ guns
THE RELATIVE FREQUENCY of the involvement of young women in criminal behaviour provides telling evidence of the negative impact of the post-2008 economic downturn on the social fabric of Barbados.
Particularly troubling is the category of crime, including possession of semi-automatic weapons, housebreaking and robbery. In some cases, too, mothers and grandmothers have been accused of harbouring suspected female criminals and obstructing the police in the conduct of their investigations.
As if these incidents were not troubling enough, it has now become common to see throngs of female relatives and “well-wishers” waving and cheering at young men on their way to being processed by the courts for well publicised incidents, with the young men obliging with victory signals and power salutes.
To add insult to the injury inflicted on grieving relatives who have lost their innocent family members to gun crimes, the young female criminals have apparently adopted the culture of striking similar smiling poses while in the hands of the police.
This troubling evidence of female involvement in particular categories of crimes not historically associated with women should provide urgent cause for deep pause and reflection for all those responsible for policy responses to the post-2008 economic crisis in Barbados.
Specifically, those who have adopted narrow International Monetary Fund-dictated economistic responses, at the centre of which is the abandonment of social democracy in favour of private sector-led development, the removal of state involvement in social intervention and the prioritisation of external debt repayment above all else, need to begin to appreciate that “economic cost” has a far deeper social implication than the mere balance between Government revenue and expenditure.
One of the compelling arguments by University of the West Indies (UWI) officials against the removal of free university education has been that single-parent, working-class, part-time females would be the principal victims of the policy, since they constitute the largest cohort of Barbadian UWI student. It appears that female involvement in male-type criminal behaviour, coincident with the economic downturn and the reversal of progressive social policy, may be validating their concerns.
As far back as the 1980s and 1990s, one of the complaints raised by educators was that young males appeared to be abandoning the traditional path of education and study as the route to social mobility and were opting instead for life on the block.
While men appeared contented to drop off and pick up women at evening classes, very few sought to emulate the females by enrolling in the free services offered by the state. In response, perceptive UWI officials unfurled a number of projects to get males “off the blocks and onto their laptops”.
It is a telling indication of a crisis-induced shift in the value system, that instead of men following women into classrooms, women are now following men into courtrooms.
Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]