Sunday, September 05, 2010

This is not a man's world

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 05 September 2010)

I recently came face-to-face with the dreadful realisation that, despite the dog and pony show given by the President and his gifted thespians concerning the passing of the Sexual Offences legislation earlier this year, little or nothing has been or will be done to protect the women of Guyana from the scourge of domestic violence.

As such, I believe it is time to start thinking outside the box for solutions to this issue. It is time to start a national conversation on how to stop the ongoing violence against women. We have been waiting for years for the government, law enforcement and judiciary to act in the best interest of women. How many of Guyana’s women have died in those years? And the violence continues unabated.

I am not suggesting that women begin to take justice into their own hands. I have read recently about times when the people have taken it upon themselves to impose vigilante justice on thieves and such. While I certainly understand the frustration that must bring people to this desperate position, these situations have a tendency to explode into something far worse. Then again, where is law enforcement at times like these?

This lack of lawful intervention was driven home for me when I received an email from a concerned Latchman Singh. Singh told me, “The use of drugs and alcohol pervades all of Guyana. But, the most drastic deterioration is happening in the rural areas where Law & Order is limited if not absent.”

Singh’s wisdom continued, “Also, the male population is dropping out of school more rapidly than female. Hence, for the males, there is only brute force and ignorance that prevails. Add drugs and liquor to the mix and you have a very potent recipe for disaster.” The seemingly unrelated fact of males dropping out of school turns out to be a vital detail in the struggle against violence against women. The continued education of the men of Guyana is imperative.

Singh has given us something to chew on and I agree whole-heartedly with this view, but Guyana’s patriarchal attitudes toward women encompass even the educated, as is obvious by the way the president of Guyana treated his former wife. Thought processes must change if we are to see cultural attitudes change.

One workable proposition I saw recently came by way of an editorial published in this newspaper on August 03, entitled, “We must sufficiently empower our women.” This article had some practical suggestions that I want to reiterate, because if the women of Guyana are serious about ending the reign of terror against their gender, this editorial goes a long way in providing valuable advice on how to accomplish that goal.

From the editorial, “Guyanese women cannot depend on actions taken by government and a handful of social organisations on their behalf. They need to get organised, develop their own alternative programs, and undertake to be the driving force behind these. This should seriously focus on what appropriate actions they can take by themselves – as mothers, wives and community activists – to break down detrimental cultural stereotypes that provoke all forms of abuse against females, and try to decrease labelling and marginalisation of victims.”

Here is more critical counsel from the editorial, “They [women] need to develop and undertake campaigns and information programs to explain the nature, extent, causes and consequences of violence against women, and exert social pressure to seek adequate assistance to the victims of abuse…Women also need to establish female support networks in their communities, so that victims would not have to face perpetrators of such abuse alone. The abuse of any female in a community diminishes every female in that community.”

These are some of the best ideas I have seen on how the women of Guyana can take action to free themselves – and their daughters – of the dangers that surround them due in large part to the pervasive archaic attitudes. I agree with the editorial, it is time that women take action for themselves.

There are some who believe that by speaking out for women’s rights in my column, I am somehow imposing “Western views” on the women (and men) of Guyana. I could not disagree more. Western thought does not own the market on human rights issues. Women’s issues are human issues.

The beatings and murders of Guyana’s women by Guyana’s men is a human dilemma wrapped in moral crisis. In fact, I would bet my bottom dollar that those men who cry foul at my columns that advocate for women’s rights are the very ones who go home and beat their wives.

To those who still, in 2010, maintain that this is a man’s world and that women who fight for their rights are usurpers of the power that belongs to men, I respond by emphatically insisting that this world is not a man’s world – it is a world in which we all, male and female, human and thousands of other organisms, share together. The sooner humans find a way to live together in harmony with each other and with the earth, the brighter our future.

I offer a big thank you to those who have emailed me with your concerns, thoughts and ideas on the topic of violence against women. Let’s keep this conversation going. Better yet, take action by implementing some of the ideas I shared from the aforementioned editorial. It is time for everyone, men and women, to find ways to keep women safe.

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