Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stella Says…Sin City Can Be A Model For Protecting Guyana’s Women

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 29 Nov 2005)

In my last column, I showed a side of my heart that I do not often share publicly because my love for my children is a very personal matter. However, the situation called for a mother’s love to express the emotions that stirred in me over a recent rape victim.

Today, I am going to be very blunt regarding those who sexually abuse and assault women and children. I believe it is time we started calling these acts what they are – crimes. And it is time to start calling the perpetrators of these acts by their rightful titles – criminals.

Someone asked me the other day why so many people get upset when men invade a home and rape a woman, but no one says a word when a little girl is raped repeatedly by her dad, brother, uncle or family friend. Good question. Both acts are equally atrocious.

Therefore, today I am calling every single father who has ever touched his daughter in such a way exactly what he is – a vile and disgusting criminal. The same holds true for the brothers, uncles and family friends. I hope there is a nice cosy jail cell with each of your names on it.

I have so much hope for a better society because I know for certain that the good and caring people of Guyana far outweigh those monstrous predators. I also know that loving and nurturing fathers far outnumber the ones who use their own precious daughters for self-gratification.

Peeping Tom explored some forms of punishment for sexual assault in his column last Friday. I agree with him on the notion that we should be locking these perpetrators up for a long, long time. In fact, did you know that in Nevada, the home of Las Vegas (a.k.a. Sin City), a person over the age of 21 can be sent to jail for life without possibility of parole if convicted of sexual assault against a child under the age of 14? That includes the child’s father.

Sin City even goes so far as to convict of a misdemeanour anyone “who knows or should know that a violent or sexual offence has been committed against a child, and does not report that offence to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours.”

It seems Sin City has a model that Guyana can use. How can a city known for its perversion have higher standards than an entire country of people who are known for their devout religious beliefs?

I want to applaud the new legislation recently passed by the National Assembly that pushes the age of consent from a young 13 to reasonable age of 16. I would have liked to see this age set at 17, but I will take 16 over 13 any day of the week. This legislation was far too long in coming though and the result has been catastrophic on the women of this nation.

However, I am a firm believer that most of these monsters would curb their tendency to sexually violate others if they knew they would go to jail for it. If every one of those repulsive fathers knew that he would get put away for the rest of his life if he ever touched his little girl in a shameful way, like the daddies in Sin City do, then I am willing to bet those men would find legal ways of satisfying their appetites.

I am also willing to bet those mothers, sisters, brothers and other family members who know what is going on (or should know), would stand up for that little girl if they knew they could go to jail just for keeping their mouths shut. Legislation like this puts more power on the side of the victim and takes away that power from the predator.

Upping the age of consent to 16 is a great start, but there is still so far to go. We cannot stop at this point and take another five years to enact additional legislation on sex crimes. Guyana needs tough new laws, like the ones Nevada has enacted, to rid itself of these criminals – and we need these laws now.

Legislation like this would mean the little girls of Guyana would be a lot safer than they are now. I join with Help & Shelter and Red Thread who on Friday called for women’s issues to be on the forefront of the national agenda for the upcoming elections. If women’s issues are not a part of a party’s platform, that party is not worthy of any woman’s vote.

It is time to wipe the smirk off of the face of each father that violates his own daughter. It is time to silence the chuckles of the perverted deviants who invade our homes to pillage the virtue and vitality of a woman.

It is time to turn the table and let them be the ones who live with the constant shame of these barbarous acts. Let them dream of freedom, knowing it will never come – just like the women they violated dream to be free of the horrible memories of torture inflicted on them.

Members of Parliament please change these laws on sex crimes as quickly as possible and stop this constant assault on the women of the nation. It is your responsibility to create laws to protect the people. The lack of protection afforded to Guyana’s women is a direct result of the National Assembly’s indifference for their safety and well-being.

As a society, we need to do everything within our power to help the victims of rape and incest. We need to support them, provide them with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their assailant(s) is locked up and help them rebuild their lives.

Oft times these victims feel devalued. The current legal and social system in Guyana reaffirms that feeling by disregarding their plight and treating them like they have done something wrong. It is our responsibility as a society to show them just how valuable they still are to us. We can help these women overcome the trauma of these assaults and show each how they can still have a beautiful and productive life.

These women and children are forced to deal with feelings of anger, confusion, fear, loss and so much more. The one thing their family, friends and neighbours should not do is force them to feel ashamed for something they never wanted in the first place.

It is the disgusting perpetrators who should be made to feel ashamed, not the victims. These women did not ask to be victimised. They did not want to be sexually assaulted. Their only “crime” was being born a woman.

It is time for Guyana to start treating its ladies like it is an honour to be born a woman – not a crime.

Email: stellasays[at]gmail.com

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