(Department of Gender Affairs)—It has been brought to the attention of the Department of Gender Affairs that on Wednesday, May 4, 2016, retired civil servant, economist and social commentator, Mrs Sylvine Henry, became the victim of a hostile, unwarranted, hateful and sexist attack by the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Denzil Douglas.

The Department is advised that the comments were made by the Leader of the Opposition on Freedom FM 106.5 radio station, towards the end of a call-in programme hosted by station owner and operator, Mr Junie Liburd. Douglas’ comments appeared to have been a reaction to a question posed by Mrs Henry, to which the Leader of the Opposition responded disparagingly and disrespectfully, “Sylvine, go and bag your face as they say in St. Pauls.”

The Department of Gender Affairs considers this derogatory statement by the Leader of the Opposition to be hurtful, unfortunate, inappropriate, insulting and insensitive. A senior official in the Department of Gender Affairs emphatically noted the following, in reaction to this incident:

“Every individual in this Country has the right to free speech, but also has the serious obligation to use such a right in a responsible, respectful manner. One should never be placed on the receiving end of an insulting retort by any public official who either (a) has been elected to office; or (b) is otherwise accountable to the people of this Country. Citizens like Mrs Henry should be commended for being a voice of the people, and for seeking answers in order to help educate the rank and file of our population on the political, social and economic issues that affect our people,” the Gender Affairs official added.

The Department of Gender Affairs is advised that it is customary for the Freedom FM 106.5 programme on which Dr Douglas appeared to be re-aired on Sundays. As such, the Department trusts that the station’s management and Dr Douglas will give careful consideration to the following actions:

  1. re-airing the programme only after redacting the segment that was offensive to Mrs Henry – in an effort to discontinue the encouragement of her ridicule by unenlightened listeners and also supporters of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party;
  2. using the re-broadcast of the programme to include a public apology from the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Denzil Douglas, to Mrs Henry.

It is the considered opinion of the Department of Gender Affairs that for Freedom FM 106.5 and Dr Denzil Douglas to do anything less than the foregoing corrective actions would be tantamount to a total, unfortunate lack of respect for Mrs Henry and all women. Failure to retract, and apologise for the said statements would also be indicative of a lack of leadership, maturity and remorse on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, who should be well aware of the role and impact of women in our Country – be it private and public sector leadership; representation in the workforce; management and financial support of most of our households; church membership and civil society activism; and majority representation among our electorate.