Standing With Stella
On the 14th of March 2017, the Jamaica Constabulary Force labelled Latoya Nugent as a "person of interest." They arrested the co-founder of the Tambourine Army when she did not turn herself in. For what? The accusation of cybercrime. (Or, perhaps, retribution for her contributions to the Survivor Empowerment March on the 11th.) To the State, when she helped the #SayTheirNames campaign and defended her work against detractors, she committed a criminal act. Empowering survivors of abuse to name their abusers on social media is illegal. While in custody, she fell ill and police denied her medical attention until the afternoon of the 15th. Yet another extralegal injustice! Fortunately, her health improved and bail was granted. Court proceedings continue on the 22nd.
For the JCF, Nugent's "malicious use of a computer" is an offence under section 9 of The Cybercrimes Act of 2015. The act
- prohibits the transmission of obscene, threatening, or menacing data to persons,
- prohibits the publication of anything which annoys, inconveniences, distresses, or causes anxiety to recipients - whether intended or reckless, and
- applies to unintended recipients.
The law has imprecise language, stretched thin to punish Nugent now and possibly others in future - the timing is highly suspect. This cannot stand without scrutiny. Cybercrime is a problem, but the State cannot interfere in the abuse survival process to solve it. To do so violates its mandate. Additionally, in effect, it protects the very abuse it has the duty upon to stop. The people at large, concerned political groups, and legal experts should review this law and others. In the meantime, Nugent must receive whatever support she needs until she is totally free.
Unfortunately, the misapplication of security forces is not limited to our island. The decade-long political and economic crisis presents itself as a global war on feminism.
In 2010, Marissa Alexander fired a vertical warning shot from her own gun against her abuser. When taken to trial in American court, her jury did not deem it to be self-defence, and found her guilty in 2012. (She was under house arrest in 2013 and released in 2015.) As a black woman, Alexander's defence was not taken seriously. The abuse she faced is common in the United States.
Following a feminist meeting in Argentina, 70,000 women demonstrated for reproductive rights and an end to domestic violence last October. Local riot police repressed the demonstration with tear gas and rubber bullets. These demonstrations and the movements behind them are necessary in Argentina. It is a country in which most abortions are done precariously, and gender-based violence kills a woman every 30 hours.
This past Women's Day, Northern Ireland police raided pro-choice activists' homes. They did it to stop the flow of abortion pills. The Northern Irish government punishes abortion, even sending teenagers to court. Thousands travel to England, Wales or Scotland every year for their abortion procedures. Those who cannot rely on the pills. Though a crime, the Belfast High Court asserts the right to abortion. In other words, fighting for reproductive rights is criminal.
Given the political climate we are in, we must stay vigilant. #SayTheirNames and the Survivor Empowerment March in Jamaica, and #LifeinLeggings throughout in the Caribbean have been successful campaigns, but the JCF's recent crackdown is a warning of what possibly can come.
It is clear the police exploit their monopoly on justice and vague laws to fight movements against sexism. It happens in Jamaica and it happens worldwide. We at LANDS condemn the mistreatment of Latoya Nugent. We stand in solidarity with the Tambourine Army, and everyone struggling for their rights and for their liberation; we strive to do so practically. We welcome all efforts on the part of survivors and their communities to bring their abusers to account.
As Socialists, we have an obligation to fight for women’s liberation. We cannot abandon this struggle for class struggle. Working women and girls form a majority of their class, and sexism harms them the most; sexual violence is a major problem in the world, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. If the State violates our rights while we seek justice, we must challenge the state and affirm our rights ourselves. Nothing less will do.
- Warriors for Women: A #TambourineArmy Timeline
- 'Come Get Me!' - Nugent unbothered by Person of Interest Tag
- Tambourine Army Disappointed
- Latoya Nugent Denied Medical Attention
- Latoya Nugent Has Been Released
- The Cybercrimes Act (2015)
- Marissa Alexander released from jail
- Argentina: repression against a feminist demonstration
- Northern Irish police raid women's homes in crackdown on abortion pills