Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Every government official should be required to sign the Skeldon Declaration

(Originally published in part in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 08 December 2010)

I cannot help but ponder how many men in positions of authority are wife abusers. This came to mind again last week when Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, had charges of assault and threatening behaviour against him dismissed after his wife, Romona Persaud, told the court that she no longer wanted to proceed with the matter.

Why did she drop the charges? Was it because of promises of undying love and an end to the abuse? Or was it because of threats of additional violence? Or perhaps it was the fear of what the future holds if she parts ways with her husband? Whatever the reason, I believe with everything in me that she will regret her decision.

Women who believe the abuse will just disappear are fooling themselves. Unless an abusive husband decides to get professional help by way of counselling, the abuse will not stop for the wife. In fact, if a perpetrator of abuse gets away with abuse without so much as a slap on the wrist, he is more likely to believe he can get away with even more abuse the next time.

As we have seen in recent years, there are those in high positions who do, in fact, abuse their wives. I am very close to a survivor of domestic violence inflicted by someone in a very high position. She is a sweet soul with a brilliant mind – and now she uses that brilliance to help others. I simply cannot fathom why anyone would think it morally tolerable to inflict abuse on such a kind and generous heart.

When a man in a position of leadership beats and abuses his wife, it is clear that such a man should not be followed to even the corner store, much less followed on issues of greater import. In fact, in a just society, such a man would be behind bars – not leading any organisation, business or country. Violent and cruel personalities are the scum of society – not the upper crust.

Moreover, if the government truly hopes to see change in the social fabric of the nation in regards to domestic violence, it must – I repeat, it MUST – get rid of wife abusers within it’s own ranks. With the same vehement stance taken against the doctor convicted of sexual offences, Minister of Human Services, Priya Manickchand, and former Health Minister, Gail Teixeira, should also confront the wife abusers in their own party.

How can the government go around the nation expecting men to sign a pledge saying they will not abuse their wives when government leaders themselves abuse their wives? In fact, every single leader in the government (Opposition parties included) should be required to sign the Skeldon Declaration, which promotes non-violent behaviour in relationships.

I have said it before and I repeat it for emphasis today, domestic violence is wrong. It is evil. If a man in a high profile position believes his status and title will give him a free pass to abuse his wife, he should think again. I refuse to keep quiet while women are beat, tortured and murdered.

How many wives of men in high positions have been subjected to domestic violence from their husbands? How many bruises? How many blows? How many loathsome words have been spat into fearful eyes?

The most recent case is chilling. According to a December 2 article in Kaieteur News, “The allegation was that Persaud, on November 30, at Prashad Nagar, assaulted his wife. Another charge alleged that Persaud, on the same day, threatened his wife with a steel chair.” This does not sound like a leader I would follow. The report continued, “Kaieteur News was told that on the day in question, neighbours heard the woman screaming and immediately called the police.”

Kaieteur News also said, “The woman yesterday refused to give evidence against her husband, and the two were both made to pay cost for wasting the court’s time. The matter was then dismissed.” This makes me so sad. Romona was so close to justice, so close to ending the abuse, so close to a happy and safe life.

There is a contradiction in the idea that someone can be a Chief Medical Officer and can also allegedly assault his wife. How can someone who is entrusted with the health of so many inflict harm on a person he is supposed to love and care about?

I applaud the neighbours for doing the right thing and calling the police. I implore them to do the same thing the next time they hear Romona screaming, because even though she did not have the courage to give evidence against her husband this time, maybe next time she will find the courage.

This is what I would say to anyone in an abusive situation, you are not alone. Please know there are others who care about your situation and want to help you live a safe and happy life – like neighbours who will call the police to save you from harm. If you need to talk to someone, call IMRAC at 664-3741 or Kids First Fund at 226-5926 or 226-6231.

I want abused women to know – whether your abuser is president of a country, a taxi driver, a Crime Chief, an accountant or a Chief Medical Officer – you can live a safe and happy life outside of the abuse. I survived domestic violence from my childhood and I know lots of women who have chosen to walk away from abusive husbands and are stronger and happier now because they left.

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