Saturday, July 16, 2011

How would your presidential candidate address domestic violence?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 09 July 2011) 

Question 4:
What is your current plan for combatting domestic violence?
APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger
(Small portions of this interview were edited out for space)

My plan is to ensure that the education system is reformed to deal with this. It has to be done at the school level. It has to be done at home. It has to be done within the religious organisations – the churches, the mandirs and the mosques. I would certainly ensure that educational programmes are modified to ensure that there is respect for each other’s ethnicity, respect for each other’s gender and respect for each other’s property at the level of the school. This is something that has to be taught.

The second instance is at the institutional level, within organisations [like] the National Assembly, the magistracy, and within the institutions of the State, equality should be mandated. At the national level, at the level of enforcement particularly, the police force has to be retrained. Not just trained, it has to be retrained to deal the domestic violence because right now the police force is what its name says – force.

[The police force] is designed to enforce then to arrest and charge people. It is not designed to counsel people. It is not designed for problem solving. And domestic violence is something that requires sympathetic counsel. I think the police force has to be changed.

Secondly, as far as the police force is concerned, there must be more policewomen. Policemen, because of the reasons I explained when I answered your first question, policemen are men and they don’t see problems the same way that women see problems. They may tend to feel that women might be wrong when they are not wrong because of their own upbringing. So I believe there must be more policewomen in the police force who would have, in addition to their other duties, a greater responsibility for dealing with issues of domestic violence.

And at the highest level, at the level of the state, legislation has to be constantly revised to ensure that it is up-to-date and enforceable. Guyana has a powerful reputation for signing all the international conventions, but there needs to be the political will to enforce those laws at the level of the state. We need a party in government that enforces the laws.

And so, at all four of the levels I explained – the individual, the institutional, the national and the state – I think we must ensure that there is political will on the part of males to enforce the law.

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar

It has to be a combination. I don’t think there is a silver bullet to pick up and fire to solve the problem. I think it has to be a question of education. Some of these things sometimes are probably caused by frustrations and the pressures of life themselves, which are part of society. So I think that generally as our economic conditions improve it probably will become easier to deal with some of these issues.
In the meantime, in the whole course of the development, whether we develop or whether we do not develop, I think we have to carry out a mass education in our society.

(For clarification at this point, I asked if when he said “education” was he referring to sensitising the public or education at a primary school level)

I would not rule out any. Once it is possible to be done at every level of our society and at a public level as I mentioned to create an atmosphere of intolerance to this violence against women – domestic violence as a whole.

That alone would not be enough. I think there has to be some level of enforcement of the laws that we have passed and to make our security forces more aware and more conscious of many of these things. And even in the training in the police force and the security forces, that should become part of the training in the police force itself.

AFC Presidential Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
(Small portions of this interview were edited out for space)

That is a very, very serious issue and I think it will have to be somewhat an upturning of the whole system. This male chauvinistic approach that we are dominant, that it is good to be aggressive against females, that it is good sometimes as the Sparrow calypso says, “buss up they eye, bruise up they knee and then they’ll love you eternally” kind of a culture. It is good lyrics to the man drinking and feeling good, but it is a terrible piece of lyrics that has been inculcated into our culture that makes men beat up their wives.

We have to also deal with alcoholism because I believe alcoholism also makes the men uninhibited and do the damning things they do. I believe also that we have to teach our boys, boy children we call them here, at a very, very small age – through the education process and through a home socialisation process – [to] respect girls; they are but your other half.

And they must, in the concept of respecting their girls, never ever be violent with a girl. Never ever slap a girl. You are less of a man [if you do]. What we, however, in this culture teach our boys is to slap a girl generally is to be a man. I think that is where the resolution of it, the remedying of it, resides. It is that education process.

And, of course, I feel that we should also sharpen up on our reprimands in the court system, investigations of these things and also the publicity of them. [We should] publicise their names and let the country know because the public opprobrium would be there as also another penalty. But we don’t. Very many of these men when they go [to court] they treat them in-camera and we never know of them. But we have to start doing that to shame them in society.

We also have to have exemplary leadership at the top that enhances that socialisation and education through the process. And we have to create counselling sessions…especially in rural areas.

And of course, as I said, all the while in almost all of these things, [we must consider] the economics of it. If we can solve and get growth and development, we are going to get more people working, more people earning, and I feel that when you earn these things lessen. It is the general frustration that causes the man to behave the way that he does. So we got to get our economics right. It is an underlying principle right now.

My response:
It is very interesting that none of the three candidates approached the matter of dealing with domestic violence by educating women of the harmful effects of entering into a relationship with an abusive man or on how to safely exit an abusive relationship. In fact, the female factor (aside from Mr Granger’s idea of training more policewomen) was entirely absent in all three answers.

Moreover, although all three provided viable suggestions to address the long-term problem, there are still women being tortured and murdered today. Likewise, there was nothing from any of the candidates to address the fact that many women today are in abusive relationships because they cannot afford to support themselves and their children if they leave (though I do ask this question later). There was also nothing to address the lack of safe houses for abused women to escape their abusers.

However, Granger and Ramotar did address the lack of assistance given to women by law enforcement, which is one of the most pressing issues for abused women today. Also, all three candidates spoke about educating the public to some degree or another, which is a vital component as well.

Overall, I feel Granger had a well-thought-out plan to combat domestic violence. He has obviously given this issue much thought. Ramjattan once again had the pulse of the situation and I liked his suggestion of making the names of perpetrators public and his stance on the need for good examples in leadership positions (something severely lacking right now).

Ramotar had the right answers – such as education, police training, etc – and for that I cannot fault him. However, there is something about the lack of effort he put into his answer that feels
discomforting. It could be that he was very busy that day (though all of the candidates were busy when I interviewed them) or maybe his mind was on something else, but his response seems like a pat answer for a very serious matter.

This week’s ratings: Granger – 2; Ramotar – 1; Ramjattan – 2

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