Women give perspectives on Trinidad and Tobago crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left, criminologist Malisa Neptune-Figaro, WINAD fund-raising director Christa Sankarsingh-Prevatt and sociologist Adeola Young, who spoke at the Confronting Violence: Women’s Perspectives on Peace and Security in TT webinar. – FB

Criminologist Malisa Neptune-Figaro said some of the factors which result in women participating in gangs include lack of economic stability, social and cultural dynamics, and geographical locations. She said while some women feel they don’t have a choice in the matter, others participated fully in gang activities.

Neptune-Figaro made the statement as part of the webinar Confronting Violence: Women’s Perspectives on Peace and Security in Trinidad and Tobago, hosted by the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action TT (CAFRATT) on Saturday. She was accompanied by Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) fundraising director Christa Sankarsingh-Prevatt and sociologist Adeola Young.

Neptune-Figaro interviewed 11 women from the communities of Reservoir, Trou Macaque and Sogren Trace, Laventille, areas she said are known for high crime rates and gang violence. She said generally women are victimised by gangs and stigmatised and ignored by the police and the justice system.

She said the key community risk factors for women in violence included reprisal killings and community boundary lines creating dependence on/alignment with gangs; victimisation by men from an early age, with mothers teaching them this was expected; poor parental support, including absent fathers, either for themselves or their children; lack of positive mentorship; and financial constraints making them reliant on gang members for support.

“Some of these women, even if they if not want to become involved in gang life, are targeted simply because of where they live. They can’t pass through or go to certain places because members of other gangs will say, what they doing here? They don’t live so-and-so?

“Some women participate, actively or through fear, in activities such as concealment of illicit items, providing information on rival gangs, distracting targets and assisting in negotiations in gang crimes such as robberies, drug sales and concealment and sale of illicit firearms.”

Neptune-Figaro said some initiatives which would help women to move out of crime would include financial stability through employment opportunities, skills training, entrepreneurial training and opportunities; refurbishing facilities such as sporting grounds and community centres and funding for cultural projects and events; safety for the children in the communities, including counselling and support for children expected to return to school the day after they lose family members; counselling and education for women, many of whom see rape as the norm; and education in parenting skills.

Sankarsingh-Prevatt presented on Gender-Based Disinformation: Protecting Women and Girls in the Virtual Environment. She defined disinformation as people deliberately creating and sharing false information to cause harm.

She said types of gender-based disinformation including recording and distributing images of sexual abuse of a woman; taking photos/videos of intimate parts of women’s bodies in public spaces without consent and sharing them online;  compiling sexualised photos of a woman without her consent; using deep fakes (fake videos/audio to make a women appear to say or do something they’ve never done); doxing: publicising a woman’s personal information (eg address, phone number) without consent to harass, intimidate or locate her in the physical world; impersonating a woman online and using her personal data to threaten and intimidate her; sharing offensive or false comments, posts or memes on social media or forums; slutshaming: publicly pointing out a women for her alleged sexual activity to embarrass her, ruin her reputation or regulate her sexual activity; cyberstalking: a pattern of behaviour using technology to manipulate, intimidate and harm a woman or her family; gender trolling: posting content including creating hashtags to annoy women and incite violence against them; attacks on women’s groups like hacking their sites or getting their social media accounts taken down by abusing a platform’s reporting tools; and direct threats of harm.

“Women are often the primary target of online disinformation. This is particularly true for women in public life. Two types of women who are particularly subject to this are politicians and journalists.”

Sankarsingh-Prevatt offered tips on how to combat some of these measures.

Young’s presentation was No Justice, No Peace and Security: Unpacking systemic, structural and cultural violences that disrupt peace and security in TT.

She said violence is built into the social, economic and cultural institutions in TT.

“It is often unacknowledged and widespread. This violence denies human rights, social, political, sexual equality, economic well-being and personal self-fulfilment.

“Violence is occurring when people go hungry, lack access to housing, decent healthcare, jobs, empowering education, freedom of expression, the right to protest, raise a family, play, have no protection of their life from the state by law and action.”

Young said there were several systems of violence in TT. These include colonialism; inherited systemic racism; cultural violence; institutional violence; capitalism; and global-south political status vs empire and spheres of influence.

She said justice could be defined in several ways, including social justice; distributive justice; retributive justice; restorative justice; environmental justice; and legal justice. She said there is justice as defined by marginalised, harmed people.

Young said she had been working on a film documenting the events surrounding the police shootings of Joel Jacobs, Israel Clinton, Noel Diamond and Ornella Greaves in June 2020.

She said historian Donna Murch had said newspapers have a vested interest in reporting sensationalised crime stories and the press had been the central instigator of moral panics.

Young said “Traditional and social media can also provide insight into how racialised, classist panic over crime is constructed and spread and infiltrates social and political psyches of Trinbagonians. It affects their ideas of peace and security, who is responsible for the lack of it, and how to attain peace and security.”

Young said society needed to redefine ideas of peace and security and how it can be achieved.

“Check yourself and perpetuation of oppression. If the forms of justice in TT do not address structural, cultural and systemic violences, there is no peace and security.”