(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 26 September 2010)
This is how the article in this newspaper started, “A 29-year-old teacher turned herself into a human torch at around 11:00 hrs yesterday, reportedly going berserk even as relatives were trying to solve a dispute between the victim and her husband.”
If ever there was an act of desperation, it was when 29 year-old Rhondina Adams lit herself afire to escape her domestic situation. No free man will ever be able to comprehend the type of desperation that sent Rhondina Adams over the edge. The only man who could ever understand that desperation is the one forced into a subservient role against his will. This type of desperation encapsulates despondency and hopelessness beyond mere words.
I felt just a taste of this despondency and hopelessness when I visited Guyana and watched how the social culture as a whole was saturated with disrespect and disregard for women. I have no doubt whatsoever that there are more women who would gladly mimic Rhondina Adams’ act if it meant they could escape the torture of being a female in this oppressive social environment. I beg of these women, please don’t do it. Let’s find a way to fix it.
Mark Benschop wants me to believe there are good guys aplenty in Guyana – and I’m sure there are. The problem is that the bad ones are killing all the women while the good guys sit back and allow it to happen. Edmund Burke said all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Allow me to describe my definition of evil in this context. Evil is degrading and humiliating remarks to another human because she is female. Evil is expecting a woman to be less than she is – socially, politically and spiritually – just to make a man happy.
Evil is confining a woman to the house and isolating her from friends and family. Evil is using a wife as a slave to cook, clean and wait on the husband. I could truly go on for days because this evil is pervasive.
I do not care how many scriptures are thrown at me to try to justify a subservient feminine role in society; I know very well what is right and wrong. I know evil and good. And I know without a doubt that it is evil to treat women the way so many women are treated.
How many headlines each week scream of another woman killed or maimed at the hands of her man? The time for action is long overdue, but the longer nothing is done to correct this social plight, the more women will die – and even more will want to die but choose instead to become the walking dead. These are most certainly desperate times for women.
I can absolutely identify with Rhondina Adams if she committed suicide to escape the social expectations placed on her by a culture that disdains women. I grew up in a similar culture (mine was a religious culture) and fought it tooth and nail for over 35 years until I simply left it. I refused to be squeezed into its tiny mould.
I refused to be less than I am to appease the archaic expectations. Something was going to have to go – either the antiquated ideology or me. I am the one still standing.
I can still taste that frustration and desperation at times. Like when I read about a Rhondina Adams – who set herself aflame to escape the same repressive type of culture that I fought and beat. I am going to say this as clearly as possible, any culture that oppresses one group of humans – whether because of race, class or gender – is evil.
I truly wish Kaieteur News had published a photo of Rhondina Adams as her charred body was removed from her home so the whole nation could see what the future will look like if good men continue to do nothing. At present, evil is triumphing.