Sunday, March 06, 2011

Happy International Women’s Day! (To the women who are still alive)

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 06 March 2011)  

On Tuesday, March 8, people around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). According to, “Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.”

March 8 is a day set aside for “organisations, governments and women’s groups around the world to choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.” Different countries, groups, etc., choose a theme for the year and although I like many of the themes chosen for 2011 – the one I feel is most relevant for Guyana is the theme chose by the United Nations (UN).

The UN’s theme is, “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.” I know many might feel Guyana has got the message that domestic violence is evil. Yet the violence against women continues – and so must our struggle against it.

I have always felt the female population in Guyana must be dropping considerably given the number of women killed each week – either by domestic violence or while giving birth. However, I happened upon a chart that shows just how dramatic the numbers have fallen.

In fact, the statistics provided in this chart are so dramatic that it is as if the women of Guyana are disappearing. The graph appearing with this column (found at: charts the female population of Guyana from 1967 to 2008. Trading Economics created the chart using historical data for Guyana’s population according to the World Bank.

The numbers show a steady growth of the female population from 1967 until the year 2000, at which time the graph show a sharp drop as the numbers nose-dive through 2008. In the year 2000, when the graph showed the female population at its highest, it peaked at 51.48 percent of the total population.

When the numbers bottom out in 2008, the female population is only 48.7 percent of the total population. Can you imagine what this graph would look like if it included the numbers from 2009 and 2010? Yes, the UN’s theme of “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls” is highly appropriate for Guyana this year.

In fact, when this graph begins to chart the female population in 1967, it started at 50.11 percent of the total population and enjoyed steady growth until 2000 when it begins to plummet. That number of 48.7 percent, where the female population bottomed out in 2008, represents the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of women who have been killed in Guyana in the last decade.

The female population of Guyana is slowly, but surely, disappearing. This does not bode well for the nation. Over a 33-year period – between 1967 and 2000 – the female population grew a healthy 1.37 percent. However, in the seven years between 2001 and 2008, the female population dropped 2.78 percent. In other words, Guyana lost more than double the amount of women between 2001 and 2008 than it gained in the 33 years prior. Happy International Women’s Day.

It is for these reasons that there are special days set aside to celebrate women, because for too many days of the year the women are not viewed as special. In fact, they are often viewed as disposable. However, I can guarantee you this, if the rate of the female population continues to nose-dive like it has for the last decade, women in Guyana will soon be on the protected species list. That is special, right?

How did this situation get so out of control? How could we sit by and do nothing while the women of the nation died? Even today, if a woman goes to a police station in Guyana to report domestic abuse, the chances are high that she will be sent back to her abuser to be tortured again.

Every woman who cries out for help and does not receive it – whether it is to a neighbour, a relative, a co-worker, a law enforcement officer, a Human Services social worker or a magistrate – that woman could become the next statistical decline on the graph of Guyana’s disappearing women.

This graph is a visual manifestation of what I have surmised the situation to be for years. Women cannot be killed on a constant basis – as they are in Guyana – without some computable record to account for it. This graph is irrefutable proof of the magnitude of this problem.

To put this information in better perspective, the sex distribution in 2007 for China (where female infanticide is practiced because of the one child per family law) was male 51.53 percent and female 48.47 percent. This is very similar to Guyana. Meanwhile, in countries like Jamaica, Barbados and the US, there are more females than males. In Brazil, the population by gender is nearly equal.

Even in Haiti, the statistical difference in its female population in the entire 40 years between 1968 and 2008 has never been up or down more than .2 percent. It constantly remains right at 50 percent.
Guyana’s female population fell a drastic 2.78 percent in just eight years. With this type of evidence, I dare one person to challenge me on the fact that Guyana’s women are being killed off.

What has happened in the last decade to bring the nation to the point where killing women is socially acceptable? I have asked myself this question dozens of times in desperation of finding a solution to the murders.

The trend demonstrated in this graph makes it obvious that this is a human rights crisis. There should be human rights activists, women’s organisations and other governments from around the world lobbying the government of Guyana to fix this situation as quickly as possible – the same way China is set upon. Instead, there are police officers who act as if they are being put out when a woman asks for protection from her abuser.

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