“Is just a little wine,” Patrice Roberts famously protested in her eponymous soca hit of 2013. “A little wine never hurt nobody.” But there has been a cultural reckoning since 2013.
The Harvey Weinstein revelations in the US have prompted a global movement which continues to see more and more instances of abuse come to light. In this climate, the assertion that “ain’t nothing wrong with tiefing a wine” is one that cannot go unchallenged. And rightly so.
Nothing better embodies this than the court case in which a man was ordered to pay a woman $12,000 in damages for touching her genitals in 2009. Govind Seepersad, now 26, of Penal Rock Road, pleaded guilty to indecent assault. In addition to damages, he will be placed on a three-year bond.
According to the facts heard in court, the woman had been standing on the street on Carnival Tuesday with her boyfriend outside a supermarket when Seepersad – a complete stranger – walked by and grabbed her vagina.
Given the greater sensitivity now being shown to gender imbalance and sexual harassment, some have asked: where do we draw the line? But the Seepersad case provides a clear answer. Sexual assault will always be sexual assault, rape will always be rape, abuse of power will always be abuse of power, harassment will always be harassment.
There is a range of behaviour that is appropriate and that is not. And sometimes the smaller things reflect values that impact the larger ones.
Carnival has always been about strangers interacting. That is part of its vitality. It brings together people who would otherwise not be together. In this context, the surprise of a little wine can, for some, be an instance of pleasurable bravado.
But everyone, no matter the season, is entitled to respect for their body and their personal space. It is obvious that many will be made uncomfortable by an unsolicited advance. In these instances, the wishes of the woman or man must be respected.
Revellers would do well to ascertain if there is a rapport with the subject of their interest. Is there any signal or sign of consent? Take a look, acknowledge that the person before you is a sentient human being. Acknowledge that consent matters.
Accept that no one is entitled to another’s body. We are not chattels.
In the end, the matter is not difficult at all. It is about respecting each other as human beings. It is about acknowledging that each of us deserves to have a say in what happens to our body, whether clothed in robes or bedecked in bikinis and beads.