The problematic issue of sexual attacks against visitors to the island, inside the walls of local hotels, again came to the fore recently when Asif Ahmad, the British high commissioner to Jamaica, said that British nationals, including children, have also been victims.
“Sadly, yes, because in a way, these criminals don’t check the passports of the victim, and it is sufficiently serious for us to get worried,” said Ahmad, who was speaking at a recent media briefing held at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, St James.
“Our approach so far, and I hope it works, is to work in a constructive way to talk to hotel managers about their recruitment practices – what training they offer, how they monitor behaviour, and the likes – and if they warned their guests to be careful about what they do.”
Jamaica’s tourism got a black eye recently when international news media USA TODAY Network published an investigative story in which it claimed that 78 United States citizens were raped in Jamaica between 2011 and 2017. That report came on the heels of an incident in which two female American tourists were allegedly raped at gunpoint in their hotel room in Montego Bay by an employee of the hotel.
According to the British high commissioner, he shared the view that there is a fine line between hotel staff being hospitable and welcoming and too friendly in their interactions with visitors, noting that people need to understand where those boundaries really are.
“What I don’t accept is where some people say a lot of people don’t see it as anything serious as people get into a conversation, and one thing leads to another,” said Ahmad. “Everybody understands that a person has a right to say no, no matter what the stage of the encounter actually is.”
NOT UNIQUE TO JAMAICA
While noting that such sexual assault is not unique to Jamaica, Ahmad said that he would love to see Jamaica moving in a different direction, especially with regard to the incidents with children.
“I have the tourism minister’s (Edmund Bartlett) clear commitment that as part of the special audit that he is doing, at least some of the basic security features will be addressed. Our hope is that all of this coming together will help to reduce the problem.”
The British diplomat also noted that while no police force would say that they have enough human resources, there is a serious shortage of police officers in Jamaica who are adequately trained to deal with cases of sexual assaults.
“There is a need for the police to do more, but they do need more dedicated officers who can deal with these cases sensitively. And not just in the tourist resorts. They need to be able to do this throughout the country,” said Ahmad. “It has taken us decades to get to where we are. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than what it was.”