Saturday, August 13, 2011

The candidates on saving economically-trapped victims of domestic violence

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 06 August 2011)  

Question 8:  In interacting with domestic violence victims around the country, one issue that consistently rears its head is that victims with no education and no means of financial independence feel trapped in abusive relationships because they cannot support themselves or their children. This is one of the most difficult issues at hand in the fight to end domestic violence. As president, how would you address this problem?

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar
(Edited for space)

As you said, it’s a very difficult case to confront. I don’t think, not necessarily as president, but I would say that right now the PPP/C has been grappling with those issues from the time we got into the government. If you look into the budget, you will see how much money we spend on education.

And what is good, too, is that we are spending on our students not only in the Coastland and in Georgetown, but in the interior areas. People are now appreciating the importance of education in the society.

So I think, not to say that when I become president, but I will continue the work of the PPP/C in making education accessible to all our students and children and young people in our society so that they will be more empowered in making informed decisions and they will not necessarily have to be trapped in these types of relationships.

Moreover, I think that we probably need to have more access to counselling. There needs to be [friendlier] and private/confidential areas that people who are trapped in these situations can feel comfortable to go to people so that they can be helped because sometimes those things go above their head and they feel they should not talk about it.

There also needs to be more public airing of many of these things so women who are caught in this type of relationship should not feel trapped and should be ready to want to speak about it to people with whom they have some confidence.

AFC Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
(Edited for space)

That is very difficult to address and I will concede that at the very beginning because you have high emotions playing out whereby the woman would still love the man and, moreover, you can have her being bound to him because of the children in the relationship (if there are children) and, also, because there is always this hope that he is going to change in the future.

I feel that we have to lessen these instances by the education of the man. My first task would be to have counselling centres in every region and probably more than one or two in those regions where you have high levels of domestic violence. It will be mandatory that the men go to these counselling sessions. Reports must be made as to whether they are changing and if they are not, well fine, but if they beat up their wife and she wants to give the evidence in a court of law, he should be jailed. But the women are the first to say, “Your Honour, don’t jail him. [I need him to take care of me].”

And that is where the economics of the thing comes in because if that woman had a good job somewhere and is getting enough money to take care of her kids and so on, she could break out of the relationship. She is chained and bonded into it largely because of the economics. That is why I feel the economics underlie almost all of these problems.

It is not going to go away just because you have a big job, because I know of even CEOs beating up their CEOs wives.

I think the moderate way to go first is counselling and setting up these counselling centres. And if the case is real bad or if the woman is real poor, we have to spend some money on social centres, on Help and Shelter Centres in and around and try to get the woman a job somehow to avoid that battered woman’s scenario. That is where I feel it could be done.

In the meantime, we need to ensure that a new generation of girl children and boys have [been] socialized and educated that [domestic violence] is the wrong thing to do. And then hopefully after a ten, twenty year period – a new generation – it can be lessened and reduced dramatically.

APNU Candidate David Granger

In the first question you asked [on the three most important issues for women] I answered this question. I said the emphasis of my campaign has been on education and employment because it will give the women independence. An educated woman is less likely to put up with this nonsense and a person who is employed will just tell the man to go to hell. That is the first answer I gave you – education and employment.

I think there have been instances, of course, where persons who are not independent would give in to violence or tolerate violence over a long period of time. But my view is that, maybe for cultural reasons, sometimes the family would say, “Oh my, we need the family connection” or something.
But educated people nowadays, in 2011, would say I’m not going to put up with this. I’m going to become an independent professional and I’ll leave this relationship. So I believe that my answer still stands – that educated and employed persons are less likely to put up with that.

My response:
Before I get into my analysis, I want to say that David Granger’s statement, “An educated woman is less likely to put up with this nonsense and a person who is employed will just tell the man to go to hell” was absolutely inspiring. I truly enjoy it and will give thought to quoting it as a Facebook status.
However, no matter how inspiring, there are some women who do choose to stay with abusers even when they are educated and employed. Nevertheless, this column is about those women who are trapped in abusive relationships because they cannot afford to leave.

Ramotar talked about education, counselling and bringing awareness to the problem. Ramjattan spoke largely on counselling and touched on education and socialization. Granger’s answer was focused on education and employment.

In my opinion, Granger not only spoke to the issue of so many women who are being abused today by introducing employment as an avenue by which independence can be gained, but he also insisted that education is key to ending this cycle.

Counselling is necessary, yes, but without employment there will never be financial independence.
To be sure, there is so much more that needs to happen to rescue these trapped women from their abusive relationships. In fact, I am not sure anyone who has not spoken with these women can truly understand just how dire this situation really is.

Here’s hoping the next administration will find a way to address this issue in a more comprehensive and thorough manner.

Ratings:  Ramotar – 2; Ramjattan – 1; Granger – 3

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