Why are we pretending to believe that the Henry Greene case is one of a common or any other manner of ‘rape.’ The Greene case is, and will in the end be seen to be, a manifestation of a socio-cultural phenomenon that sees women seeking out well-placed men for favours and moving on from the transaction fulfilled, triumphant, or bitter and resentful. The men, ‘the big ones,’ most often deliver what is requested or required, then settle down in wait of other game that the moral and social degeneration is sure to beat into their offices and rented hotel rooms. It is taken as a perquisite of office. It is the way we have brought ourselves to live.
At what point in these encounters and this social context, therefore, should a discussion of ‘consent’ emerge and merit consideration? The exchange falls wholly outside what is comprehended as common rape and what is intended by the Sexual Offences Act of 2010 in its extreme lengths to ensure prosecution and punishment. Danuta Radzik, in an enlightening letter discussing the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) (‘The Sexual Offences Act is still not effectively implemented’ SN, April 3) needed to bear in mind that rape as therein defined does not cover adequately the series of social facts and behaviours that led Mr Greene and his partner to the sour bed in the small room.
To feign alarm and to focus on the minutiae of the interplay of the two characters in the Greene case is to wrench the matter entirely out of the realm of social practices in which men and women mutually prey on each other in a commerce of sex that has characterised power relations in this country for a long time. And that will continue unless the country starts asking itself hard questions and begins to hold the people in its leadership as well as its ordinary citizens, to higher standards. In most of these cases, both parties are guilty; the one of suborning a public official and the other of abuse of office. It is simply what these cases are. It matters little who accuses whom of what in the fallout. It is an act of corruption gone bad. That is all. So why are we pretending to believe otherwise.
It is because Commissioner Greene has become something more than your garden offender. He has become Symbol. Embodying all the accusations of corruption, greed and sexual immorality that have been hurled against the administration. And symbols in themselves have no legal rights, but exist in a conceptual sphere denuded of all humanity. This is the way we have ‘constructed’ our image of the offender.
None of Chief Justice Chang’s detractors have brought legal argument that challenges the reasoning behind his decision. With the exception of Ms Radzik no attempt has been made to refer to the legislation that is relevant. They seemed to have had no problem with the process itself. The contention is that Mr Greene should have been punished. Perhaps the public ought to be treated, for its education, to the legal reasoning underpinning criticism of Chief Justice Chang’s ruling. Until this is done the opponents have made no case – and seem to be appealing to emotion.
In response to F Skinner in your April 3 edition, and to the multitude so grievously deprived of the spectacle of the ex-commissioner arrested, in remand, tried, sentenced – in short become poster boy for the uncleanliness, made to pay for the accumulated crimes of all the predators and sexual profiteers we have produced – I need to express my surprise at the ease with which mob justice can be made to sound legitimate. But I am quickly reminded of the dreadful silence and sighs of relief when common criminals on the wrong side were gunned down without benefit of due process, wiped out to the quick spasm of our comfortable complicity and the finality of an impersonal obituary in the Guyana Human Rights Association report.
Rape, as conceived by Freud in his time was seen, in the case of ‘Dora,’ as an “insult to her honour.” Writers on what is now considered “the sociology of rape” also look at historical and social circumstances and especially the cultural significance of the act. In our culture we do not consider a woman knocking at the office door of a man in authority and consenting to sex in return for any type of consideration, as a case of rape. We have to look also at the “construction of the victim” in the SOA discourse. Precisely at the cultural and social assumptions and who was intended as “the victim” in our Sexual Offences Act. At what our expectations of the victim’s identity and actions would and should be.
So, the Greene case has become, from a social and political standpoint, something more than the sum of the quite rational deconstruction done by CJ Chang. It has become a lightning rod for all the political and class resentments we have accumulated. A magnet for all the disgust that we understandably experience faced with the practices that seem to have quickly emerged and entrenched themselves since our independence. Hence the gleeful howl emitted by APNU also has to be deconstructed and interpreted for what it wishes to say. It wishes to say that, after so much abuse and suffering, the people need the assuagement of witnessing a blood sacrifice. And why not Commissioner Greene? Or perhaps, especially Commissioner Greene. Since he has also offered himself as the poster boy for all the aggrieved who are lamenting the quite disgusting violence, including of the sexual sort, meted out daily against women and still sometimes inadequately handled by the police and legal system.
Given all of the above, the point that remains is that ‘rape’ in all of its definitions, is facilitated and covered up by a certain way of life, certain values, liberties and the ambient immorality. The cleansing of the place has got to go beyond throwing Greene to the wolves. It has got to extend to re-educating our women as to what is dignified and honourable. And our men to see woman as a principle that often exceeds in its sanctity the way some women have been brought up to see themselves. Hollering “rape, rape” at an expedient time, and hustling the offender off to the dungeon may salve the conscience. But it does not solve the problem. Demanding that Chief Justice Chang lead the mob is to impose upon him a role that is neither properly his nor in the best interests of justice.
The CJ would be wrong to encourage a waste of public resources on a case that is, prima facie, without merit.
Now to a certain point about the case. Defenders of Mr Greene’s victim have re-painted her as a timorous character led sheepishly to the slaughter by a lecherous gun-wielding Greene. Too terrified to profit from the numerous chances to cut and run. To shriek. The personality that comes out of interview and public statement is far from that. The witness is not credible. The circumstantial evidence, far from supporting the delusions of the crowd seeking Mr Greene’s head, suggest a deal more in line with what I had written above. Taking a licking in exchange for a cell phone also says something about police procedure. We have had cases of cars or essential working material, seized and left to rot in some station compound as the accused or suspect treads useless day after day to “see the big man” about getting his stuff back. This scandal deserves a picket line as much or more than the victim in Mr Greene’s case. Which is to say that until the system puts in place adequate safeguards against this type of abuse (and Minister Rohee ought to intervene here) women and men will approach the mighty with a bribe or promise of a piece to get justice. That many now see this as the faster and natural way is again a comment upon us. The former US consulate official Thomas Carroll came here and was totally corrupted. Earning millions in graft and endless sexual gratification as the weak hurried to the embassy to find a way out. Was that also rape by the SOA definition?
Finally, for me the significance of the CJ Chang decision is that it offers hope to the Guyanese who have suffered false or frivolous charges as we throw them in remand jail with a blithe remark that the courts will decide on the merits of the case. It is a form of political harassment or of simple spite, from which we should be protected. The CJ Chang precedent will, I repeat, prevent people from spending months, even years in jail on a treason charge that buckles in the courts. The importance of the ruling has to mean that as we labour in an imperfect legal system none of our political parties has seriously wished to change, the fatality of the dirty Brickdam lockup and the overcrowded outdated prison may be avoided. The rights of the citizen to be protected from flawed and frivolous prosecution is what has been affirmed. The nonsense about Greene and the woman must be seen for what it was: an occasion to a greater good.