Our irrelevant Ministry of Gender Affairs

Why does the Cayman Islands even have a Ministry of Gender Affairs?

Putting “political correctness” aside (which regular readers know we almost always do), the Cayman Compass has never been enthusiastic about governments setting up departments or ministries that divide or even subdivide their populations.

In the United States, the situation has become so political (read nonsensical) that one wag was driven to opine, “Well, who’s going to protect the interests of left-handed Lithuanian dentists?”

In Cayman, we as a population have recently witnessed a brutal assault, albeit verbal, by a formidable man on his female subordinate. We refer, of course, to the Dec. 10 incident in which Minister Osbourne Bodden subjected Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn to an abusive outburst so intense and sustained that a Government Administration Building security guard was called to the scene. The incident was clearly overheard by dozens of civil servants.

Minister Bodden’s now-infamous statements (which, according to a report submitted by staff members present, included, “You aren’t even Caymanian, you are like a piece of f&%king driftwood”; and “Get out of my face. Get out of my f&%king office. Get out of my f&%king office now.”) go far beyond the realm of the outrageous and into the more troubling domain of the very governance and leadership of this country.

First, consider the physicality of the confrontation: Minister Bodden – a proverbial bear of a man, easily possessing two or three times Ms. Ahearn’s mass – bellowing, cursing, threatening. At the top of his lungs, Minister Bodden threatened to make her life “a living hell.”

The lack of response (a little bellowing might have been in order here) from Cayman’s leaders has become even more telling than Minister Bodden’s tirade. By failing to condemn Minister Bodden’s behavior, our officials – particularly Governor Helen Kilpatrick, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson – have sent a message of tacit approval declaring that Minister Bodden’s behavior accords with the institutional standards of Cayman’s government.

So far, Premier McLaughlin has pursued a three-part strategy: Shuffle (Cabinet responsibilities), separate (Mr. Bodden from Ms. Ahearn) and shut up.

We cannot imagine why this issue has gone unaddressed by Governor Kilpatrick, who is responsible for the “good governance” of these islands. In other instances, she has been more than ready to espouse the most “enlightened” views on equality in the workplace.

Indeed, featuring prominently in the announcement of the upcoming Truman Bodden Law School lecture series on “gender and LGBT equality,” Ms. Kilpatrick was quoted as saying, “When I arrived as governor, I said in my first speech that I would naturally be taking a particular interest in gender equality issues.”

It appears that Governor Kilpatrick’s interest in gender equality may be limited to the academic, rather than sullying itself with the practical.

But, let’s return to the issue of the Ministry of Gender Affairs, headed up by the Hon. Tara Rivers. Ms. Rivers is developing a deserved reputation for “disappearing” at critical moments in her tenure when she should be leading. That might be a desirable skill for an escape artist such as Harry Houdini but hardly so for an elected leader.

As the lone female Cabinet member, one would have thought that Minister Rivers would have found common cause with our first female governor, adding their voices to the anthem of an entire movement of female empowerment: “I am woman, hear me roar!”

Apparently not so.

If the Ministry of Gender Affairs is not relevant to the Minister Bodden/Chief Officer Ahearn incident, what is the possible justification for its existence?

Minister Rivers, might you like to share your thoughts on that?

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  1. The way that the Editorial Board uses the Cayman Compass to try and shame people into doing what they want them to do is nothing short of shameful and disgraceful itself. The actions and conduct of Minister Bodden as it relates to the incident involving Ms. Ahearn should in no way be condoned. However, this attempt to shame Minister Rivers (in particular) is low, very low.

    I would submit that the conduct displayed by Minister Bodden would have been the same irrespective of the gender of his Chief Officer and question the true motivations of the Editorial Board in this matter. The desire by the Editorial Board to make this incident about gender above all else detracts from the core issues at hand and does nothing to help the country move forward in a way that would help ensure that these types of incidents do not repeat themselves in the future.

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  2. I see the Government of the Islands as a MAN Government, even though we have women in the Government, don’t expect any Gender Affairs representation from those women, because they would be told just like how Bodden told Ms Ahearn, and handled the same way.

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  3. Take a look at how many women head government departments? Not very many and those that are like post office, immigration, education, customs, it’s obvious they are not wanted or suppose to be there. Compass should do a survey on the overall gender of HODs in the Civil Service and exactly what accomplishments Gender Affairs has accomplished since it’s existence.

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  4. Mr Boland, I think that we should be happy to have the Compass, editorial board to bring these issue’s to the public attention, this is why we have the freedom of speech. Just look at the people of Cuba, and do you want to be like them !

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  5. Jim, it might be interesting to take a look at the number of women who in the past have reached senior levels in the public sector and check out what happened to them.

    I suspect it would make rather disturbing reading.

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  6. @Ron Clair: It is one thing to bring this issue to the attention of the public in a fair and balanced way and a totally different thing to present it to the public in the way that the Editorial Board has decided to report on this story.

    The fundamental problem that we seem to have in Cayman with the Ministry of Gender Affairs is that many people seem to think that the sole purpose of the ministry is to punish men and promote women. Unfortunately, the men and boys within our society are also in need of a voice as in many instances they are the silent victims of gender based discrimination and abuse.

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