A woman who attended Carnival in Port of Spain, Trinidad this week was found dead, and now the city’s mayor is facing heat for publicly stating Asami Nagakiya, like all women attending Carnival, was herself responsible for “ensuring that she is not abused.”
Nagakiya, a 30-year-old Japanese performer for a local Soca band in Trinidad, was found dead on Wednesday, still wearing the decorative yellow bikini costume that’s typical of Carnival attendees.
Geoff Adams, the man who discovered Nagakiya’s body, told reporters: “She had a laceration on her elbow and black and blue marks on her waist...It look like a rape/murder to me.” An autopsy report revealed that the victim was strangled, but police are still investigating and have yet to confirm a sexual assault. No arrests have been made.
In the wake of the death, the city’s mayor Raymond Tim Kee is being heavily criticized for his comments about how women’s clothing and behavior at Carnival. At a press conference on Wednesday, citing the rowdiness of the yearly festival, Kee told the local station Loop:
“You know before Carnival I did make a comment about vulgarity and lewdness. The woman has the responsibility to ensure that [she is] not abused. And my argument was you could enjoy Carnival without going through that routine … of prancing and partying. Then why you can’t continue with that and maintain some kind of dignity?”
Kee also referred to the murder as “embarrassing for Carnival,” adding:
“You have to let your imagination roll a bit and figure out was there any evidence of resistance or did alcohol control? Therefore involuntary actions were engaged in, and so on….It’s a matter of, if she was still in her costume – I think that’s what I heard – let your imagination roll.”
The mayor continued to blame the culture of Carnival, rehashing the need for participants to be extra cautious:
“There are a lot of other subcultures people engage in all year. And therefore they have to be very alert and very careful about whom they associating with when they go out.”
Kee’s dense remarks, implying that Nagakiya could’ve prevented her own murder, prompted a petition demanding his resignation. It currently has over 7,800 signatures. One petitioner commented: “Victim shaming is an irresponsible thing for anyone to do, far less a leader in a society. Mayor has shown himself to be both insensitive, preemptive and ignorant. He must go.”
The mayor later released a statement apologizing for his comments, but the statement has also received backlash. It reads, in part (via the Trinidad Guardian):
His Worship the Mayor of Port of Spain Alderman Raymond Tim Kee unequivocally apologizes to women and the national population who were offended by remarks attributed to him following the death of carnival visitor and mas player, Asami Nagakiya...
Mayor Tim Kee says that his comments were completely misconstrued. He agrees that his comments could have been considered out of line, but despite the anger being expressed from many quarters including feminist groups and activists, he has also received calls of support from several women agreeing with him on the lack of modesty displayed by some women and girls on the streets during the Carnival Celebrations.
The Washington Post notes the slate of deaths at previous Carnivals, including five people who were killed at last year’s event.
In an interview apparently given before the discovery Wednesday morning of Nagakiya’s body, Trinidad and Tobago’s acting police commissioner, Stephen Williams, declared this year’s Carnival a success. He added that 42 people had been arrested during the two-day festival, but did not mention any deaths, according to the Loop.
Nagakiya’s body is reportedly in the process of being shipped to Japan.
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Image via TV6/screenshot