Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Political campaign strategies must address position on domestic violence

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 03 November 2010)

It goes without saying that as the election season gets into full swing, any party that does not have domestic violence at the top of its campaign blueprint should not be considered as a viable choice at the polls. Domestic violence is one of the top national issues that has plagued Guyana for years now and is slowly, but surely, killing off the women of the nation.

If there were a medical disease that killed off as many women in Guyana as domestic violence has in the past decade, there would have long ago been calls from every section of society to find a way to cure the disease that brings so many horrid and painful deaths.

But alas, this is not a medical disease that has been killing the women folk. It is a social disease. This disease steals a woman’s self-confidence and joy, then replaces it with fear and pain. There are physical signs of this disease as well. Bruises, bumps, blood and swelling. Slowly, each day, the disease works itself throughout the woman’s entire body so that all that she knows is the disease and fear, until one day when that disease takes her life.

The silence that has overshadowed this disease is like a dark cloud that never leaves the sky. So many have turned their eyes away from the disease and pretended it was not there. But it is now clear that pretending it does not exist will not make it go away. Just like a medical disease, there must be research to discover what causes it, methods of treatment considered and decided upon, and preventative measures taken to prevent future outbreaks of the disease.

This is where politicians come into the picture. The chosen leaders of a country are where the people turn for help in combating diseases. If Guyana were hit with an outbreak of cholera, the government would need to act swiftly to minimise the loss of life. It is at such times that we see the mettle of a leader. Domestic violence is one issue that will test even the best of leaders, even the most caring of leaders.

As in the last election, I choose to be neutral in my columns on which party I view as best suited to govern the nation for the next five years. However, I can say from the get-go that any party that does not have a comprehensive framework assembled to address domestic violence once in government would never, ever get my support.

Here is a good rule of thumb; if a candidate has a reputation for disregard toward women, is a known wife abuser and/or has been seen around town with young girls – that candidate is no more a fitting leader than a stray dog. The truly sad part is that too many of the current or wannabe leaders fall into one or more of these categories. Keep your eyes open, dear reader, and make wise choices as to who should lead the country.

I have already spoken of how religious leaders who do not stand up against the wickedness of domestic abuse are not representing God here on earth. Likewise, if a political leader does not take a strong stand against this evil, they have no right whatsoever to represent the best interest of the people in a political office. Moreover, if a political leader embraces the evil and is an abuser, he belongs in a prison cell – not a political office.

There has been a recent change in the way society views domestic violence. I believe it is because of the brutality of the Neesa Gopaul case, but whatever the reason, the public is starting to take a stand against this social evil. There are now demands for accountability and justice. This change seems to acknowledge the fact that domestic violence is not a private matter, but a very public issue that requires public intervention to protect the women and children.

However, it is ludicrous to think that any politician that demeans and degrades women cares one iota about protecting women. Sure, some of these politicians may clean up well and put on an angelic face to fool the voters into believing they care, but actions speak louder than words and if these candidates have a reputation for abuse, that should be the voters’ criteria concerning the domestic abuse issue and nothing more.

Because, let’s be honest, if a candidate uses women for sex and then tosses them aside, if he has ever been verbally, mentally or physically abusive to his wife or any other woman, if he runs around with little girls and uses their bodies before they are physically or mentally ready to be used – that candidate will only be able to pretend to be an angel for so long before the real devil shows back up – and we certainly do not want that person to be a leader in the nation when the devil’s horns do reappear.

A politician’s reputation precedes her/him. All the way here in Texas, I hear about all kinds of things – the good and the bad, but mostly the bad, of course. I can only imagine the things I would hear if I lived in Guyana. Guyana is a small nation and it seems everyone knows everyone else’s business. As such, it should not be too difficult to decide which leaders would bring more tragedy to the women folk and which ones would find a way to eradicate domestic violence once and for all.

The nation’s religious leaders have stepped up and taken a strong stance against domestic violence. Now let’s see if the nation’s politicians will do the same during this election season.

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