(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 August 2010)
The scourge of domestic violence continues unabated. The bodies of Guyana’s women continue to pile up. What is yet to be seen is a real, feasible solution to this dire situation. What is it that makes men think they have a right to beat and kill women? Domestic violence has not been stamped out; instead it has grown to staggering proportions.
The week is only half over and already the headlines blaze crimson with the news of more women dying at the hands of men who were supposed to care about them.
One woman was stabbed nine times by her husband. Nine times! The stabbing came after years of tortured beatings and abuse. What type of human can do this to another person?
Moreover, passing out mere eight-year sentences for killing a pregnant wife, as was the case just this past week, is absolutely ridiculous. Any infidelity on the wife’s part is simply a non-issue. What if women went around killing husbands for being unfaithful? This cane cutter should have been put away for life to replace the life he viciously stole.
I recently wrote on the alleged wrongs done to the former First Lady, Varshnie Singh, by the President, Bharrat Jagdeo. I maintained that given the allegations made by the former First Lady (allegations not disputed by the President), the President has set a poor example for the men of Guyana – and it is obvious that the women are paying for it with their lives.
I received many email responses on this topic, most in support of the column, but there were also a few supporting the President. Of the handful in support of the President, more than half were of the “blame the victim because she was crazy” type. These I dismissed out of hand because there is always plenty of “crazy” to go around during a divorce.
There was one email that said my column was one-sided, and clearly it was since the President did not offer his side. However, I did encounter one direct statement that was recorded by the President, “I wish her well in the future and I just want to go on with my life.” This one sentence shows how dismissive and aloof the President acted toward his wife. As if by waving his hand he could make his marriage disappear.
There was no love in the President’s remark, no respect, no obvious desire to ensure the ongoing wellbeing of the woman who was his wife. He simply wanted to be done with her. I wish with my whole being that I had been well enough to write on this issue while it was actually happening.
After reading my article concerning the former First Lady, Freddie Kissoon wanted to know how I perceive “…the role of the parliamentary opposition, given that they are finished with the Singh/Jagdeo confrontation and continue to sit in Parliament.” The answer is quite simple, I see the opposition parties as part of the overall problem.
I have been trying desperately to determine if there is one sure way to curb the domestic violence about which I write so often. I have come to the conclusion that there is not one reason it exists, and not one solution that will halt it. The willingness of the opposition parties to duck and run on the “Singh/Jagdeo” issue is one of the many reasons domestic violence continues unabated.
Those who maintain that the Singh/Jagdeo matter is a personal affair could not be more wrong. Nor is the abuse and murder of any fellow countrywoman a personal affair. The beatings and murders of Guyanese women are at epidemic proportions today because everyone decided to look the other way instead of protecting the victims. The opposition parties failed the country by dismissing the President’s repugnant behaviour toward his wife. And society followed suit when they saw the everyday Joe displaying the same disregard toward women.
Freddie is right that there is no way in hell any president in other countries would have been allowed to continue in office after such a scandal. I dare say that in the U.S. and many other nations, that scandalous president’s own party would have demanded a resignation to save face with the public. But in Guyana, the ruling party does not really care about the public’s opinion.
As such, it would have been upon the opposition parties to demand that the sullied seat of the highest office in the land be purged of the ill repute lapped upon it and restored to a place of esteem. Alas, some other sparkly object must have caught their attention, as often happens with my little niece, and a very important matter slipped by, all but forgotten.
When leaders in the ruling party, as well as the opposition parties, discharged the Singh/Jagdeo issue, they essentially condoned it. And now all of the nation’s leaders are shrugging their shoulders and wondering why domestic violence is so rampant. They have no clue how to stop it. Let me help to clue them in, start by renouncing the disrespectful relationship the President had with his former wife and do not get sidetracked on this important stance.
This is the position that should have been taken from the start and consistently maintained as a matter of principle. It should not have been swept under the rug and forgotten about. Moreover, the issue of domestic violence should be foremost on any campaign platform for the coming election. If leaders want to see society respect women, those leaders need to prove they respect women themselves.
Author’s Note: I would love to hear from others on the issue of domestic violence. Write to me and tell me why you think women suffer so much at the hands of abusers and what can be done to put a halt to the violence.