Friday, Jun 5, 2020
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Let the festival be

The month began with carnival. By all accounts the multi-day festival went well. In its short existence it has become popular with young Bahamians.

There are various versions of it around the world. The carnival brought here during Perry Christie’s administration is a type infused with soca. The Afro-Caribbean rhythms and styles are familiar to our people.

The Bahamas has a vibrant year-round festival calendar from regattas to art shows to Junkanoo and much more. Carnival seems like it is here to stay. It will fit well with those other gatherings and events.

When the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) started carnival there were many over-the-top criticisms. It’s foreign. It’s too sexy. It will destroy Junkanoo.

All that was nonsense, of course. The valid criticism of the PLP was how much it spent on it. The millions were unjustified. The money was nothing more than a way to reward the PLP elite.

As carnival comes around every year there must be more maturity and reason. Yet again this year we heard from religious conservatives the dire warnings of the moral dangers of carnival.

The “near naked bodies” of men and women who will engage in sexual contact with access to alcohol during the road march “has the potential to lead to sexual violence, rape and other violent confrontation,” said Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander.

“We strongly condemn this open display of sexuality, nudity, open consumption of alcohol and indecency associated with this event,” he said in a statement.

“We also further state our deep concern for the safety of our young people especially our young women during these carnival events.

“With a mixture of men and women flaunting near naked bodies engaging in sexual contact with event participants and the open flow of alcohol, we stand with others who believe this event has the potential to lead to sexual violence, rape and other violent confrontation most especially between our young men who may not be able to handle seeing their female friend in sexual contact with other men on the streets.”

The road march is but a day in a weekend of activities. People dress in sexy costumes. They march in groups. They shake and dance in the manner that Caribbean people do at parties, clubs and get-togethers. The festival is not a threat to the moral order. It does not lead to sexual violence.

We must learn to accept difference in our society. Some people enjoy spending their time at church on Sunday. Some prefer to go boating. Some like to dance. Some don’t.

There is no need for overblown rhetoric unfairly criticizing the thousands who enjoy the road march. It’s a once-a-year fun frolic. Those who don’t like it don’t have to attend. It’s really as simple as that.

Carnival is growing and thriving without the massive expenditure of public money. That’s good. If people want the festival it should be self-sustaining.

The Free National Movement (FNM) was right to leave carnival to the private sector. The state’s resources are better spent on schools and healthcare.

Going forward, carnival’s opponents need to calm down. The warnings of doom are much exaggerated.

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