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NOW weighs in on ‘abuse of power’ case in St Vincent

By Colville Mounsey From Barbados Today

At a time when the “Me Too” movement has brought worldwide attention to the plight of women who are sexually assaulted and harassed in the workplace, the plight of a Vincentian woman caught up in a dispute with one of that country’s most powerful men has attracted the attention of the National Organization of Women (NOW).

In what many have described as an abuse of power, a magistrate recently ordered 23-year-old former model Yugge Farrell sent to the mental hospital for three weeks when she appeared in court on a misdemeanour offence.

Farrell was charged with using abusive language at Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, the wife Camillo Gonsalves, the country’s finance minister.

The young woman subsequently released several videos on social media claiming to have been involved in an intimate relationship with the minister, who is the son of Vincentian prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

The young woman was today granted EC$1,000 bail with one surety.

In throwing her support behind Farrell, NOW Public Relations Officer Marsha Hinds said the case was a sharp reminder that the decades of gains made by Caribbean women could easily be eroded.

“The gains of women across the Caribbean are Barbados’ gains and likewise the losses of the women of the Caribbean are Barbados’ losses. It hammers for Barbadians that regardless of whether or not you are middle class or lower class, we are all women and we have to be able to support each other,” Hinds said.

The NOW spokesperson went onto warn men in positions of power that gone are days when they could subjugate women without being called to account.

“I think that the overarching thing that has come out of this matter is that Barbados and the Caribbean cannot continue to think that it is business as usual without accountability for what we do. This case attracted the attention of Human Rights International, it attracted the attention of Amnesty International and one point NBC [US television network] was doing some coverage on the issue. It drives home to all of us in Barbados and the wider Caribbean that we have to do something to rewrite our masculinity and the way we execute intimate relationships because the world is calling itself into accountability and the Caribbean will be washed in that wave,” she stressed.

The issue, which sparked demonstrations in Canada from the Vincentian Diaspora, also attracted the attention of Barbadian attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim, QC, who offered his services pro bono to take over from Grant Connell as lead counsel for Farrell.

“Basically I felt like causes like this could benefit from a senior attorney and I felt that I could help. So I reached out to Grant, who I had met before, and he accepted my help and I came down,” Pilgrim told Barbados TODAY by telephone from St Vincent.

He also revealed that he was not the only legal mind that had been inclined to respond to Farrell’s plight as human rights lawyers from Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana have expressed great concern.

“We had a good result today with her released on bail and we are going to take everything from there. I have had lots of support from a number of human rights attorneys throughout the Caribbean for which we are grateful,” Pilgrim said. (CM)


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