by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 July 2006)
It is not often that I will address one particular issue so many times in one week. However, if there ever were a time to focus on a single vital issue – it would be now. I have been so encouraged by the number of letters to the Editor this week addressing the issue of the alleged rapes, porn videos and Minister Bibi Shadick's irresponsible response to this matter.
From my unofficial tally of the editorials, columns and letters to the Editor from last Sunday through Friday, I have come up with no less than 13 opinions written on this subject – and every one of them were in strong support of the women. This is a clear sign that despite the number of rapes, domestic abuse cases and single mothers living in extreme poverty – there has been a definite shift in the way Guyanese view women.
Some letters displayed a clear outrage over Minister Shadick's flippant statement assessing the women in the videos as appearing to be consensual. These letters were not solely from women either, which is even more encouraging. It seems as if an abhorrent event like these porn videos has been the catalyst for turning the tide for women in Guyana. This notion is ironic, but also poetic justice.
In a letter from Andaiye Karen de Souza of the Red Thread, she strongly condemned Shadick's statement on this matter. Another letter to the Editor spoke of the Minister's double standard and one letter even called for Shadick's resignation. It certainly seems Bibi Shadick should answer for her irresponsible words.
I was tempted to write on the new poll that supposedly shows the AFC closing in on Guyana's political dinosaurs. However, I felt it would have been irresponsible of me to let this matter lose the momentum it has garnered with an outpouring of public support.
A young Guyanese woman sent me an email entitled, "Bibi the Blunt" this week. She said, "Can you please get all up in Bibi Shaddick face with your pen." (sic) This young woman seems to share the same sentiment as the rest of the letter writers this past week.
She also said, "Oh how I wish it was her daughter." If she were Bibi's daughter, I bet there would have been no rest in the Shadick household this week at all. However, since she is not Bibi's daughter, I have been asked to address the Minister on her behalf – and I am therefore more than happy to oblige.
I am sure the Minister knows full well what her role in this matter should have been. She should have supported the GPF's decision for a full investigation. She should have kept her personal opinion on the matter to herself and issued a professional statement in line with her supposed role of protecting women. She should have allowed a judge to decide if the sex acts were consensual instead of making such a reckless statement before a trial.
As the Minister of Home Affairs, she should have ensured a judicious resolution. As a Guyanese woman, she should have known how difficult it would have been for these girls to come forward. As a representative of Guyana to the UN, she should have known how many women are raped each and every single confounded day in Guyana – and that these young women could have likely been added to the very long list of victims.
As a supposed advocate of women's issues, Bibi should have used this unfortunate event to bring awareness to the plight of women in her country. As a member of the government, she should have found a way to use this situation to help form new legislation in support of protecting women.
Regardless of what Bibi Shadick should have done concerning these videos, the accusations of rape and a subsequent trial – she did not act in the best interest of the women of Guyana. Furthermore, she should now answer for her actions.
I could have ignored all of the letters to the Editor this week. I could have ignored the email from an incensed young woman. I could have had some fun with the new AFC poll or addressed the issue of government-controlled media (which the young woman who emailed me was also quite upset about).
However, I knew full well what should be done. I know that if I let this issue die before justice is dispensed then I am just as irresponsible as Bibi Shadick. The point is not whether these young women consented to the sex acts or not. The point is that Bibi Shadick's actions dismissed the accusations made by the women and by doing so further victimised every single rape victim nationwide.
Madam Shadick, you have a responsibility to the women of your country. You have a job to do and your entire female constituency is waiting for you to do it. You have been entrusted with the protection of an entire nation full of women and their best interests and it is time you started acting like you take that responsibility seriously.
An apology for your statement would go a long way right now Bibi. It won't undo the harm you have caused, but it would go a long way in attempting to win back the trust of your fellow countrywomen. It's time to make this right Madam Minister – or step down from your position of protecting women's rights.