Friday, May 27, 2011

Serving alcohol at Feminition is like asking a woman to kiss a cutlass

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 27 May 2011)

There has been debate amongst highly regarded women’s advocates concerning the Feminition Expo that will still be in full swing as most people read this column.

There are two main points at hand: the first point is whether Feminition should be serving alcohol and the second is whether the money spent on the Expo could have been better used in other ways to help women.

I will address the issue with alcohol first by saying that I fully agree with Vidyaratha Kissoon (Stabroek News, May 25 Letter to the Editor), S. Nageer (Kaieteur News, May 27 Letter to the Editor) and Andaiye (Stabroek News, May 27 Letter to the Editor) on this topic.

In fact, my colleagues and I in the “Break the Silence” group recently had the same conversation as Minister Priya Manickchand said she and her team had about whether to serve alcohol at an upcoming event. We decided against it.

We chose not to serve alcohol because of the message of duplicity it would send as we talked with our attendees about the role alcohol plays in domestic violence in Guyana. Although our group primarily focuses on bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence, we have helped enough women to know that alcohol does indeed play a part in the ongoing violence toward women.

She did everything for him

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 27 May 2011)

This week has been yet another bloody one for the women of Guyana – and it is not even over yet. The violence and murders continue and the brutality escalates. One woman was slashed with a knife (luckily, she survived), another had her head bashed in and yet another was chopped to death with a cutlass – all in a matter of days.

There are witnesses to prove that two of the three attacks were carried out by the husbands. However, as yet there is no proof that Sharanie Doobay’s husband had anything to do with her brutal murder. As such, we will assume he is innocent until proven guilty.

Yet as I was reading the May 25 Kaieteur News report on the murder entitled, “Doctor’s wife found dead in pool of blood,” there was something that struck me. Here is what the article said, “Relatives also dispelled any suggestions that the woman and her husband had any problems…‘She was his right hand; she spent all of her days at home while he spent most of his time at work…she did everything for him and he adored her.’ This newspaper was told that the couple had been married for more than 30 years.”

Although the “relatives” did not see any problems, I see a big problem. In fact, I have a problem with that entire statement. The wife stayed at home all the time, the husband was at work all the time and she did everything for him – for more than 30 years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The morality police are watching

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 25 May 2011)

I am often disappointed, and at times even offended, at the way homosexuals are viewed. Those who interact with me throughout the day will customarily refrain from their usual sexist verbiage so as not to offend my sensitivities on this topic.

However, I am also quite offended by homophobic speech because as a woman I understand all too well the plight of a group of people that is besmirched and degraded simply because of how they were born. This is not an easy life.

For example, imagine that you have decided to have sex with someone. Whether you are in love with this person or not is not the issue. Neither is whether you want to pursue a relationship with this person. The only issue is that you are going to have mutually consenting sex with a person of your choosing.

In Guyana, this choice could get you arrested if you are a man and the person with whom you choose to have sex is also a man. The enforcers of the law would not care if both people involved were mutually consenting adults. They would not care if the two were Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Nor would they care about the race of the “offenders.” The only thing that would matter to those with badges is that both people involved were men.

This type of despicable incident could take place in Guyana today, since laws against sodomy are still in the law books. In fact, unless the standing laws of the country change to be more tolerant of sexual preference, it seems the logical outcome could one day see paranoid heterosexuals narking on their homosexual neighbours to “clean up the neighbourhood.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Women must vote if they want to see change

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 22 May 2011)

In a world where the female population often outnumbers the male population, it is an immense travesty of the human race that “men rule the world.” In Guyana, where the female population has taken a nose dive in the last decade, the aforementioned travesty becomes a crime against women.

It is my opinion that as long as men alone roam the corridors of power, women will continue to live their lives as second rate citizens, as beating posts for the men and as the lower wage earners.

There are umpteen other demeaning and degrading roles that women are forced to play to entertain men and to feed the male ego, all of which relegate women to a subservient status. It is a disgrace. It is unjust. And it is because women do not vote.

For far too long, women had no voice in the home, in religion or in the matters of politics. The very fact that I am writing this column is proof that this is no longer the case. However, though women may have the opportunity to have a voice, it does us no good at all if we do not use that voice.

It is not good enough just to know that if we wanted to speak up, we could. We must speak up if we desire genuine change for our gender. We shake our heads when the neighbour beats his wife. We want to do something, but we are afraid of the same beating. We must vote if we want to see change.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When rats take over

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 20 May 2011)

Let’s be honest, it is time to address the rat problem. With trash piling up in mounds all over Georgetown, can we expect anything less than for them to start taking over and trying to get rid of the rest of us?

One rat decided to shut down the electricity and make life miserable for a lot of people this past Wednesday.

I have never heard of a rat shutting down an entire city before, but hey, this one did. It is becoming more and more obvious, these rats mean business.

Therefore, I maintain it is time that we know exactly what we are up against with these rats who want to take over. Rats come in many shapes and sizes.

For example, there is the rodent type, like the one that took out GPL this week. There are also the human rats.

We have all met human rats in our lives – they are those squirrelly people with beady eyes just waiting for the right minute when our backs are turned to nibble away at our precious goods. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One woman’s struggle for a safe life

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 18 May 2011)
Last year in March, a young mother was chopped to death by her reputed husband and father of her children. As she was being attacked, her mother stepped in to try and keep her daughter alive and in the process was also chopped on both arms.

The mother, whom we shall call “Donna” to protect her from further harm, survived the attack. The perpetrator of this violent act then ran away leaving his two children without a mother or father. A murder charge was filed against him and a judge issued an arrest warrant.

At first, it is believed this man was hiding in the community, but he eventually left for a neighbouring country to dodge the law. However, he recently turned up again in the same community where he killed his wife and attacked his mother-in-law.

“Donna,” the mother-in-law, feared for her life, but decided to do the brave thing and tell the police that the perpetrator had returned. She first went to the local police station to make the report. However, she was sent to another police station. She went to that station, but they did not take a formal statement, just a verbal acknowledgment of what she said. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why the reservation to name names?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 15 May 2011)

There are times when in writing this column I have had an exchange of words with my editors concerning the naming of names concerning perpetrators of crimes.  I have to admit that I do not understand the concept of protecting criminals, but that seems to be the norm in Guyanese journalism.

I was taught that anything that was a matter of public record could and should be included in the news to keep the public informed.  The only times when there is an exception made to this rule is to protect victims (particularly in the case of sexual aggression) or a child under the age of 18. All other information belongs to the public.

For example, I wrote a column on December 08, 2010, about a Chief Medical Officer accused of domestic violence against his wife. The incident was a matter of public record as the police were involved in the report, but the man’s name was taken out of my column.

I respect my editors’ opinion on this issue, although I do not agree with the premise that everyone already knows the identity of the perpetrators. I also feel the public has a right to know the full story – not the edited one. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amerindians provide land for Amaila Falls, but get no electricity in return

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 13 May 2011)

I attended the community meeting hosted by Sithe Global on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project at the Tower Hotel on Wednesday night and was disappointed to find it was not the “town hall” structure I had expected, but more of an expo of project. It felt more like a launching than a place to “have your say,” as billed by their ad for the meeting.

I attended the meeting to get a better understanding of the project and I left with just that. Although the atmosphere was not what I expected, I did indeed have most of my questions answered, not all to my satisfaction, but an answer was attempted.

However, as I left I felt very disturbed about a piece of information I discovered during my visit. It seems that although there are several Amerindian villages throughout the nation that will be impacted by this project, none of them will reap the advantages of the electricity once it is finished. Not one village.

I did not know this information before. I did not know a lot before I attended the meeting, which is why I went in the first place – to educate myself on the project. Still, I am troubled by the omission of the Amerindian villages in their rightful share of the coming electricity from the hydropower project. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I bet doomsday will not come on May 21

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 11 May 2011)

I have often wondered with amusement about how many times in my short lifetime of 42 years that someone has prophesied that the end of the world would come on a specific date. It has happened many times – and each time the specified day comes and goes and nothing happens.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States and there were some who preached that he was the anti-christ because his first, middle and last name all contained six letters – 666! Egads! I was 12 years old at the time and the whole fiasco was more than a bit scary.

There have been several judgment-day close calls for us humans in our past, yet we have somehow found the ability to remain unscathed by all of the doomsdays that have come and gone. I am not sure if it is our doomsday prowess that has saved us thus far, but we have obviously escaped the end of the world to this point.

The latest prophecy, which maintains that the end of the world will come on May 21 at exactly 6pm (sunset in Jerusalem) has preachers going all over the world to save us from judgment. I even saw some billboards on the Texas highway during a 15-hour drive last Saturday. Will the human race be able to escape this doomsday as well?

A Kaieteur News article on May 6 entitled, “Group preaches May 21 doomsday to Berbicians,” detailed the warnings of this group telling those in Berbice of the impending doom. The article said, “…the May 21 Judgment Day message they preach, originated from careful analysis and study of the Bible by General Manager and President of Family Radio, Harold Camping.” 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Denying maternity leave is discrimination against women

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 08 May 2011) 

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and my readers know I cannot allow any opportunity to slip by to honour women. However, I want to use this holiday to highlight an untenable situation recently brought to my attention that dishonours and discriminates against mothers rather than giving them the respect and esteem they deserve.

I am referring to the fact that there are employers that are not giving mothers their rightful maternity leave. The National Insurance Act allows for thirteen weeks maternity leave. The maternity benefits paid are equivalent to 70% of the average insurable income.

Further, female workers are also protected during pregnancy and after childbirth from discrimination, disciplinary action or dismissal for her pregnancy or reasons connected with her pregnancy by the Constitution, the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act and the Prevention of Discrimination Act.

Thirteen weeks is not a very long time for a mother to have with her offspring, but it is better than what women in the U.S. receive, which is only 12 weeks. On the bright side, there are countries that obviously respect their women much more and care more about the family unit by providing substantial maternity leave.

Friday, May 06, 2011

State-sanctioned animal cruelty?

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

I was pleased to hear about the government’s move to start picking up stray animals from the streets. Anyone and everyone can attest to the hazard these animals create with their presence on the roadways – both to others and to themselves. However, I was not at all pleased to read the Kaieteur News article published on May 4 entitled, “Impounded animals dying in State care.”

The article said, “This newspaper was reliably informed that as a result, these animals have been locked up in police pounds for more than two weeks, in most cases, without water and proper food.
So far at least two animals have died at one of the pounds on the East Coast of Demerara, apparently as a result of dehydration and starvation. There are also reports, too, that the remaining animals there are in really bad condition.”

Later in that same article, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said he knew nothing of these conditions. He also said, “Before jumping to conclusions, one has to ascertain what condition the animal was brought.”

I can see how this could be the case given the condition of most of the strays seen on the streets.
However, it is highly unsettling for me to think that the unchecked animal cruelty in Guyana has now become State-sanctioned, with animals being starved to death in the custody of the State. If the reports of maltreatment of the strays picked up from the streets are true, this is a new low for the nation. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Keeping track of domestic violence offenders

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 04 May 2011)

There is a new idea being proposed that could have a significant impact in the struggle against domestic violence. According to an April 17 article entitled, “NY Legislators Propose Domestic Violence Registry” on, “Three New York legislators want the state to register domestic violence offenders just as sex crime offenders are publicly listed.”

One of the legislators, State Senator Eric Adams explained: “We would duplicate the same process and the same type of software, so we already have the wheel invented – we’re just adding a new spoke on the wheel.”

I do not believe Guyana has a way to track sex offenders yet, much less domestic violence offenders, but perhaps it is time to find a way to do both. For example, when I moved to the San Antonio, Texas area five years ago, I was able to type in my zip code on a registry Website for the area I live and find out if any sex offenders lived nearby.

Since I had a young daughter, this was vital information for me. Anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime must register with the local authorities. If the sex offender moves to another location, registration is required again in the new location. They must provide their address to the authorities and this information is made public for the protection of the community. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I will not sing John Paul’s praises

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 01 May 2011)

Although it was suggested that I should write on a significant global event that occurred this weekend and entitle it, “Royal Love, What women really want, fantasy and reality all at once,” I had already decided to write on the other significant global event to happen this weekend, the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Today, John Paul will be the first Pope to be beatified by his immediate successor, which is Pope Benedict XVI, and it will be the quickest ascension on the path to sainthood in history.
One would expect such a person to be the epitome of goodness and justice.

While no one, not even this heathen, will deny the good that John Paul did in his life, it would be unbalanced and dishonest of us not to look at the other side of the coin as well.

On this day while many will praise John Paul for the things he did while alive, there are also some who will condemn him for what he did not do.

While I cannot stomach political corruption, it is corruption in the church that at once boggles my mind and boils my blood.