Guyana statement in solidarity with Jamaica’s Latoya Nugent

Dear Editor,

We stand in full solidarity with Latoya Nugent, co-founder of the Tambourine Army of Jamaica and executive director of WE-Change, who was arrested by members of the Counter-Terrorism and Organized Crime Division of the Jamaica Constabulary Force on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. They have since charged her with “use of a computer for malicious communication” under the Cybercrimes Act. She spent the night of March 14 in custody at the Duhaney Park police station to await a bail hearing at the St Andrew Parish Court in Half Way Tree in Kingston. The arrest and charge of Latoya Nugent is a sad reflection on the Jamaican state. We understand that Latoya was not well while in custody, was taken to hospital on March 15 and unable to attend court. She has now been granted bail and a new court date set for March 22. We also express solidarity with Nadeen Spence of Mary Seacole Hall, another founder of Tambourine Army who was also questioned and intimidated by the police.

Why was Latoya arrested? Because she boldly spoke truth to power, using her Facebook page to name persons (some holding high office in various prominent institutions) who were identified by their victims as sexual predators. There will doubtless be people who oppose this kind of action, but those of us who have signed this letter who are from the generations who fought and fought and fought to change laws and then fought again for them to be implemented only to watch domestic and sexual violence against women and girls and young boys increase and grow more vicious and more tolerated and normalised, are united in the view that the time had come for more radical action to be taken. We salute the Tambourine Army for its courage. We support the Caribbean youth-led feminists like #LifeInLeggings, Womantra, CatchAFyah and other emerging women’s rights organisations and those progressive men and men’s groups and networks that speak out against violence against women and children such as CARIMAN.

In taking the action she took, Latoya gave life to the UNWomen’s #BeBoldForChange theme under which marches were held across the Caribbean on March 11 – all synchronized to commence at 3pm. Latoya’s organization #TambourineArmy was featured in the Guyana press Stabroek News ‘In The Diaspora’ column on Monday, March 13. It was also the subject of an article in the UK Guardian newspaper.

In Guyana, our march, organized by the UG Students Society Against Human Rights Violations, was led by UG student and survivor of domestic violence, Akola Thompson. The Guyana march was a March for Girls and Against All Forms of Gender Based Violence. We marched in solidarity with #LifeInLeggings (Barbados), #Tambourine Army (Jamaica), and groups who marched in Trinidad & Tobago and other Caribbean islands. We marched in support of the UNWomen call #BeBoldForChange. Red Thread, Help & Shelter, Guyanese Girls Rock, GuyBow, The Witness Project, Women & Gender Equality Commission, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, ChildLink, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Guyana Trans United, Citizens Against Rape and individual rights defenders all marched and many spoke at the rally held at the Square of the Revolution afterwards, including Natasha, survivor of domestic violence and Twinkle, champion of transgender rights.

The Tambourine Army does not stand alone. Latoya Nugent does not stand alone. Touch one, touch all – not only all in Jamaica but all in the region and in the regional diaspora. Touch one, touch all!

Guyanese women’s rights and gender justice organisations and activists endorse the many statements in solidarity with Latoya from Jamaica and around the Caribbean and within the diaspora and add our collective voice to the call for respect for her fundamental human rights to defend women and children – girls and boys – against acts of sexual and other forms of violence. Naming & shaming perpetrators is essential. It is they who should be behind bars and not the defenders of human rights.

We deplore state action that blocks citizens and their organisations anywhere in the Caribbean and the wider world from the right to associate, to speak out in defence of human rights and to condemn all acts of child abuse, gender-based violence and violence against all vulnerable groups.

We call on the Jamaican authorities to drop the charges against Latoya Nugent. All states of the Caribbean should support breaking the silence of victims/survivors of human rights violations and upholding these rights to ensure that justice is done!

Latoya, solidarity, respect and love from Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Students Society Against Human

Rights Violations

Red Thread

Help & Shelter

ChildLink

SASOD

Witness Project

Guyana Trans United

GuyBow

Amerindian Peoples Association

Alicea Foundation

Mothers in Black

Guyana Citizens Initiative

Citizens Against Rape

Women & Gender Equality

Commission

Guyana Responsible Parenthood

Association

Guyana Equality Forum

Youth Media Guyana

Makushi Research Unit

Vanda Radzik

Andaiye

Vidyaratha Kissoon

Janice M Jackson

Joel Simpson

Norwell Hinds

Sherlina Nageer

Mellissa Ifill

Sadie Amin

Denise Dias

Beverley Harper

Janette Bulkan

Nicolette Roach

Raquel Thomas

Kay Lagan

Syeada Manbodh

Melinda Janki

Charlene Wilkinson

Mary Valenzuela

Leila Jagdeo

Bonita Harris

Jocelyn Dow

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