Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell last night apologized for his “insensitive” response to questions about rape and acknowledged that he may have offended victims of sexual violence.
“I am humbled at the opportunity to speak to mothers, fathers, women and girls, victims of rape, abuse and violence, and anyone else who may have been offended by a video recording of me that is in circulation,” Campbell said in a statement.
“I apologize for what seemed to be insensitive as I responded to media personnel.
“I was merely trying to avoid what appeared to be encroaching on another minister’s portfolio.
“I am fully aware of the duties and core functions of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development which include, but [are] not limited to, food assistance, shelter for all victims, including rape victims and victims of trafficking in persons, school and uniform assistance, the elderly, child protection, rehabilitation and persons with disabilities.
“This incident has caused persons to question my familiarity with the 2015 Strategic Plan to address Gender-based violence.
“I am pleased to note that in the six months that I have been the minister, I have partnered with the Crisis Centre, the Caribbean Men’s Group, the Zonta Club, the Pilot Club, the United States Embassy, UN Women and a number of NGOs in an effort to bring this very strategic plan to fruition.
“I am committed, along with the ministry and its dedicated staff and all of our NGO partners, to honor, advance and promote all of the conventions to which The Bahamas is a signatory.”
On Tuesday, Campbell was asked whether, in light of the increase in reported rapes last year, anything is being done by the Ministry of Social Services to address the issue from a primary prevention standpoint.
In response, Campbell shook his head, pushed away reporters’ microphones and went on to imply that the issue of rape in The Bahamas is not the ministry’s business.
“Don’t ask me about rapes,” Campbell said.
“Try to keep me out of other people’s lanes. I like to talk about my stuff.”
He added, “Social services is about poor people who need food, people who need social assistance and stuff like that.”
In his statement, Campbell noted that the government has taken a zero-tolerance stance against all rapes and violence.
“Efforts to prevent violence against women require determining and addressing violence at its root,” he said.
“The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, through its many departments does precisely this, through the provision of counseling and crisis intervention and prevention services.
“As a husband and the father of one son and three beautiful girls for whom I want nothing but the best, as I do for all girls and women of our Bahamaland, this is more than just a job.
“As I would have indicated while representing you at the Committee for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and Girls (known as CEDAW), I give you my assurance that I remain committed to all of its articles not merely for the purpose of reporting internationally, but for the benefit, upliftment and improvement of our very own.”
Campbell was roundly criticized on social media over his comments and his actions toward reporters.
Attorney Marion Bethel, who serves on the committee of CEDAW, said Campbell’s comments were “totally unacceptable”.
Former Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin called the comments “inappropriate” and “unimaginable”.