Jamaica has a sexual assault problem
Forbes Magazine recently listed Jamaica as the third most dangerous country to visit for women travelling alone.
The two most dangerous countries were Morocco and Egypt. Jamaica's place on this list was justified by repeated reports of sexual assault and unwanted advances made on female travellers.
The US State Department received more than a dozen sexual assault reports in a 12-month period, some of them occurring on all-inclusive properties allegedly perpetrated by resort staff.
In light of this report, a few Jamaicans cried foul, saying that the magazine is just out to make the island look bad. This argument carries very little weight because we do have a sexual assault problem in this country.
There are certain things that are culturally acceptable that qualify as sexual assault. For example, when I am walking on the road during the days, very vile, graphic sexual statements are said to me by strange men in the name of complimenting me.
A man actually said to me one day that he wants to live up under my skirt. I was wearing a floor length skirt at the time.
Beyond the catcalling, some men feel like they are free to grab and touch you as they want, and this can be very intimidating for Jamaican women; it's even more so for visitors.
Imagine if you visited a foreign country where you don't speak the language and strange men are shouting obscene things at you and trying to touch you? It can be traumatising.
As our legislature looks at reviewing the Sexual Offences Act, we have to take into consideration the cultural practices that make it hard for women to function in our society.
We cannot continue to blame the victims, saying that they are responsible because of the way they dress or the mode of transportation they choose to use.
We must institute educational campaigns to demonstrate what's allowed and what's sexual assault.
I love my country, but I'm not blind to our faults, and sexual assault is one of them. So before we dismiss an article like the one in Forbes Magazine, let's use it as an indicator of something that we need to address.