Leslie, man. No, man.

Last week, in the House of Assembly, Leslie Miller, the “honourable” member for Tall Pines, told a tale about how he used to beat his girlfriend, all the while his colleagues could be heard laughing in the background. When the Speaker of the House offered him an out, of sorts, Miller denied that he was joking, but affirmed that he was serious.

Leslie Miller, MP Tall Pines: “That’s like beating your wife or your girlfriend every time you go home. You just beat her for looking at her. I love ya. Boom, boom, boom. I had a girlfriend like that. When I didn’t beat her, she used to tell me I ain’t love her no more, ‘cause I don’t hit her. But seriously, I had one like that. I had one. She used to tell me…”

Kendal Major, Speaker of the House: “We know that you are joking with that…”

Leslie Miller: “I serious with that. I tell her, I get tired, man. My hands hurting a little bit, give me a break.”

Cleola Hamilton, MP South Beach: “Leslie, man. No, man.”

Leslie Miller: “I am telling you the truth. One thing I don’t do is lie.”

Listen for yourself:

Today, Miller offered an apology, of sorts:

I am a Bahamian! I am a proud Bahamian! I Believe in my Bahamian brothers and sisters! I am NOT an advocate or a contributor of physical abuse on no level. My record speaks for itself when it comes to my stand and assisting women in our country. My constituents can attest to that; strangers I’ve encountered can speak on my behalf; the sick and underprivileged I’ve assisted; single mothers I will continue to fight for AND as a father of two beautiful daughters, ABUSE physically or mentally will never be condoned under my watch!

Unfortunately the media choose to highlight certain words without executing the entire story and truth…that’s how papers are sold and unnecessary drama unfolds. This is common in our society, but unacceptable on ALL levels. I will continue to challenge anyone that tries to assassinate my character, especially on such a sensitive topic.

To anyone that my analogy may have offended, I sincerely apologize. WE are one Bahamas, let’s make an effort to put politics and hidden agendas aside and live that way.

Furthermore, Miller likened the media’s reporting of his initial statement to being raped [sic!]. He said, “It is unfair to me and my family that I would be raped in the newspaper with such silliness. … I should be rebuked for what?” The inability of some of our politicians to admit when they have made a mistake, to even understand that they have made a mistake, is deeply troubling. Human Rights activist Erin Greene commented on Miller’s statement as follows:

after reading miller’s latest statement it seems that miller was and still is unaware of the insiduous ways in which violence against women is perpetuated… this is why anti-hate speech legislation is needed… what he said not only highlighted our history of violence against women, but in ways he was unaware of at the time promoted and perpetuated the existing culture of violence that we seem ready to ignore… miller doesn’t make this place mysogynistic, it is our collective response (or lack thereof) to the behaviour that miller has highlighted that identifies this culture as mysogynistic ….

Greene’s analysis is spot on. Miller’s original statement was outrageous, and unbecoming of a Member of Parliament, for with parliamentary privilege comes parliamentary responsibility. If Miller took the little word “honourable” that MPs so like to use, seriously, he should resign immediately.

However, it is not just Miller’s statement that is disturbing, it is also the response of his colleagues – raucous laughter –  in the House of Assembly that is disturbing. It is also the Speaker’s belief that it would be acceptable if it were said jokingly, that is disturbing. Violence against women is no joking matter. Violence is no joking matter. In 2014, in the Bahamas, violence is absolutely no joking matter. Yet it is symptomatic of our society, which unfortunately accepts and glorifies violence on so many different levels.

My wife and I are raising two children in the Bahamas. I don’t know what scares me more. That we are raising a daughter, who may one day be pushed into accepting being a victim of domestic violence as her lot in life? Or that we are raising a son, who may one day become a perpetrator of violence against women following the example of such “honourable” men?

It is my sincere hope that my generation, my children’s generation, and the generation in between come to realise that we cannot, must not, continue to pretend it’s all business as usual.

EDIT: In an earlier version, I mistakenly attributed the female voice that can be heard interjecting, “Leslie, man. No, man,” to Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner (FNM). However, upon revisiting actual video footage of the event, it turns out that it was indeed the MP for the South Beach constituency, Cleola Hamilton (PLP). I apologise for the mistake.