Friday, June 29, 2007

Stella Says…Madam Minister, you need to enforce the enforcers to enforce the law

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 June 2007)

Priya Manickchand is on the move again. A press release from the local Government Is Not Accountable chapter (GINA) gave us the good news this week that according to Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand, we should soon see some new regulations to amend the 1996 Domestic Violence Act.

Bravo, Priya! Bravo!

Although the former legislation seemed quite comprehensive, one can certainly understand the assumption that something must be wrong with it since women continue to get beat to a pulp and murdered by men who supposedly care about them.

Hey, I’d rather see the government at least attempt to do something about this ongoing problem rather than ignore it as if it is not really there (like the crime situation). I simply cannot wait to see what good ol’ Poised and Proper Priya has up her sleeve to protect the women of Guyana.

Priya, sweetheart, I know we haven’t talked in quite a while. I do apologise, but I’ve just been so busy of late. I know you are wrapping up those new regulations on the Domestic Violence Act, but I do have a suggestion or two – if you can spare just a couple of minutes.

When I moved into my new home in south central Texas last July, I was quite a bit upset at the high rate of domestic abuse in the area. Which is why I was thrilled when the local police department implemented a new policy concerning domestic abusers in March of this year.

The new policy gave local police the mandate to arrest a domestic abuser on the spot when they enter a home where abuse is evident. Before this new policy, there was a long tedious process that could have taken weeks before the abuser was arrested, but now the police are required to find the abuser as quickly as possible and arrest him.

Sadly, this new policy was brought about because of a man who killed his wife and then killed himself. The wife had called the police earlier and told them the husband had tried to shoot her. The man was nowhere around at the time of the first police response. The wife was dead on the second response.

Now I know the police in Guyana are doing their best to protect the women, but I have heard stories, Priya, and they are not very good. I’m sure you have heard the same stories of women going to the police for help and subsequently being told to “go on home to your husband and make up with him.”

Now you and I both know, Priya, that if a woman is going to go to the police station for help because she is afraid of her partner – she really, really, really needs some help. So for the police to dismiss her request and send her back to a dangerous situation – well, in my eyes the police become part of the problem.

I’ve also heard stories about how these abuse victims – when they are not sent back home - are further victimised at the police station and made to feel like they must have done something to provoke the violence or like they are wasting the time of the police officers.

Now Priya, in light of this information, I cannot help but wonder if it is the Domestic Violence Act that needs to be fixed – or if it is those entrusted with enforcing that law and protecting these women. Maybe it is a little of both.

Perhaps if the police adapted a new policy of arrest immediately when it is apparent that abuse is occurring, then a lot fewer women would be dying every week in Guyana. I know, I know – this would intensify the overcrowding situation in the prison system, but at least the women would be alive.

Ooh, I have an idea. If Guyana built a prison just for these wife beaters and child abusers, and put them all in one building, then they could beat up on each other all they wanted and get a good taste of what their families had to deal with while living with their violent conduct.

Okay, that might be a little extreme. Here is an idea that might be a little more palatable for your political taste. Perhaps you could provide a hotline that women could call to report police officers who do not treat their abusive situation with the proper sensitivity and rapid response.

In case you have not notice, Poised and Proper Priya, I am trying to point out that unless your new National Policy on Domestic Violence and your new National Plan of Action includes a way to enforce the enforcers to enforce the laws, it will make no difference to the women of Guyana.

You can amend laws day and night for the next five years and implement policies until the cows come home, but if those who are suppose to protect the women and children just laugh in their faces when they need help – all of your work is for naught.

When the police realise that domestic abusers are nothing more than terrorists in their own homes, when the law enforcers comprehend that women are not suppose to be beat senseless just to appease the male ego, when the protectors of society start acting like they are going to protect society – that is when your amendments and policies will mean something.

Now Priya, dear, I hope you don’t take our little talk the wrong way. I do appreciate what you are trying to do for the women of Guyana. I am only pointing out the obvious because we cannot live in a fantasy world and pretend these things do not exist while women are dying.

On another topic altogether, I just love your hair, girl.

Email: StellaSays[at]

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