Gender advocates dissatisfied with Jonas’ response

Gender Affairs Minister, Dean Jonas
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Gender justice advocacy group, Intersect, said that it is not pleased with the response by Minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs’ response to outrage over controversial comments he made last Wednesday.

Minister Dean Jonas was describing a hypothetical scenario where a female minor could consent to having sex with an adult male.

The group’s cofounder, Nneka Nicholas, said the minister did not take “accountability” for his comments.

“There was more of a shift away from taking blame, and he said we took the comments out of context, and I’m not sure in what context speaking about a relationship between a 13-year-old and an adult, what are the [other] contexts that could be okay, so I am not satisfied with the statement that he made,” she added.

The Minister had first blamed politics in part for the outrage, but later on Thursday, issued a clarification of his comments noting that, “The government of Antigua and Barbuda regards violence against women and girls as unconscionable, and is committed to providing appropriate care to victims when it occurs, and to increasing survivors’ access to justice under the law.”

He added, however, “I cannot overemphasise the importance of raising public consciousness about gender-based violence in an effort to eradicate it from our shores.”

The statement, though extensive, stopped short of an apology.

Nicholas said that Jonas’ statement on consent was “careless” and should be “walked back.”

The gender advocate said that while the minister did not resign, as calls from Intersect and others have demanded, the group would continue its efforts, and the ball is left in the court of the government concerning Jonas’ future.

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