A young man was murdered. He was found in a pool of blood on the road. His name was Hemchand Dalchand, also known as ‘Rakesh’ and he lived in Cummings Lodge. He was 20-years-old and has been added to the long list of murdered Guyanese youth. We should remember his name, let his death be a reminder that we are living in dreadful times and sound our voices until there is justice.
Unfortunately, developments that evolved because of his death have overshadowed the attention and outrage that should have attended his murder. Shortly after Hemchand’s untimely and brutal death, transgender sex worker Otis Pearson, popularly known as ‘Otisha,’ was held by the police for questioning. In an interview after her release, she said she did not know the young man and she had an alibi for the night in question.
Otisha has always been popular. A previous interview with her went viral in 2014 because of her commentary on the murders of sex workers Jason John and Carlyle Sinclair. The murders occurred when the perpetrator could not find his partner, who was the intended target. John and Sinclair were unfortunate to be in the path of a man who had lost his mind and who, after murdering them, committed suicide.
Otisha was involved in a protest after the murders and her comments during a related interview were found to be amusing by many because of how she expressed herself. Like then, instead of focusing on the crime rather than Otisha’s hilarity, the focus after Hemchand’s death has once again become Otisha’s personal life.
In the interview after her release, Otisha stated that she has seven boys–one for every day of the week. Subsequently, pictures of Otisha and a young man, who is said to be underage, surfaced. Many began referring to Otisha as a paedophile. The ensuing controversy necessitated a follow-up interview, where Otisha offered clarification on what she meant when she used the phrase “little boys,” which she insisted meant anyone 18 and over. She also stated that the young man in the picture that was circulated was a family friend. However, many have questioned Otisha’s honesty.
The story once again brought to the fore the issues in our society regarding the targeting of children by sexual predators. The conversation about child sexual abuse is an ongoing one that is necessary, but there are periods where the issue is only whispered about. If any significant change is going to occur in this society that will lead to the eventual elimination of the problem, including the conviction of the many perpetrators, we cannot just have scanty protests and selective outrage. The resistance to predators who prey on children must be ongoing.
Under the Sexual Offences Act, a person convicted of sexual abuse of children can face a life sentence. I wonder if most of the predators in our society know this or if they do not care. Or perhaps they continue to prey on the vulnerable because most get away with it.
The issue of predatory behaviour in this society, including the sexual abuse of young children, is not a heterosexual or homosexual issue, for predators are of every sexual orientation. Last week Friday, it was alleged that a three-year-old girl was raped in the Corentyne by a 24-year-old. In late January, we learned that a five-year-old was repeatedly raped by her uncle, also in Berbice. He was reported to have been begging for forgiveness. Recently, Lance Corporal Clifton Pellew of the City Constabulary was remanded after being charged with the rape of a 16-year-old boy. The alleged rape occurred last August after the boy was detained for loitering.
If every case of a child being sexually violated throughout this country were reported, the outrage would never end. It would drain the life force and therefore affect the holistic health of our society. Every time I hear another story from an adult who was violated as a child or about a child who has been abused, it is absolutely dreadful and difficult to comprehend that human beings who do such harm continue to exist.
Paedophilia is a disease. It is described as a psychiatric disorder in which adults have sexual fantasies about children or fulfil those fantasies by abusing children. But how could one ever excuse a person who hurts a child? When a person is sick, they need to be treated and maybe that is what is missing in our society in dealing with paedophilia. Or maybe people do not acknowledge that they have the disorder, are not diagnosed or believe that it is normal behaviour.
What is unfortunate about the Otisha situation is that those who publicised and have been sharing the images of the young man seen with her made no effort to conceal his identity. His wellbeing was not taken into consideration. In a society where people are quick to self-harm, no one thought about his psychological state. Adults distributed the images, and many defended it being exposed because they assume that the young man is homosexual and for many in this country that means his life has no value and he has no place in the society.
Guyana is a very homophobic country. Even those who claim to be men and women of God, utter love your neighbour in one breath and call for the lynching of members of the LGBT community in the next.
Many have used the Otisha interviews, her candor in describing a preference for younger men and admission of involvement in sex work, to paint the entire gay community with the same brush. However, Otisha does not represent or speak for the entire LGBT community. She is one person expressing herself and if investigations reveal that she is in fact involved with underage boys, then it is she and she alone who must stand trial. It was reported that the Childcare and Protection Agency is investigating the allegation.
Throughout this most recent saga, many have forgotten that a young man was killed. His life mattered. His death reminds us about all the other young people who have been murdered in recent times. We cannot forget Hemchand. Neither can we forget 18-year-old Raynelle Benfield, who was found in the Beterverwagting cemetery in December with her face mutilated; Marrissa Rehanna Fraser, 22, who was found in a trench in Berbice, also in December, with stab wounds; and school teacher Kescia Branche, also 22, who died two days after she was found unconscious last November. Kescia would have been 23 this week. And there have been many others.
We cannot just remember them with minutes of silence on anniversaries or other special occasions; it is not enough to mourn them. Injustice shatters the silence every day and voices scream from the grave. Many may never rest in peace.