(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 15 October 2011)
These two words, presidential backball, seem contradictory – as if
the two words should never be uttered in the same breath. Indeed, there
ought to be respect when the word “president” comes across our lips.
Backball, on the other hand, is a lewd word, something we hope our
children do not mutter until they are adults.
Yet we are
begrudgingly forced to join these two paradoxical words as we consider
the conduct of President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP Presidential
Candidate, Donald Ramotar, who both
received backballs at their party’s recent rallies. I honestly cannot
even believe that I am forced to talk about such coarse behaviour, but
talk about it I must and so I shall.
The Urban Dictionary defines
backball as a “Caribbean term for sensually gyrating in a forward bent
over position, most often in front of a male while partying, sometimes
also touching the ground with hands. Referred to as receiving by males
and giving by females.”
This type of conduct is something that
should be done in private, or at the very least in a dark room at a club
full of people who are doing the same thing. It does not belong on the
platform of a political rally in front of all and sundry – including
children and impressionable young people.
However, my focus for this column is to draw a clear and concise line
on how the crucial issue of domestic violence relates to the president
of a country receiving a public backball. Common sense tells us that
this type of public behaviour is inappropriate for any leader, much less
the president of a country, but allow me to connect the dots for those
who still do not seem to get it.
You see, as long as women are
sexualised and objectified by society, they will never obtain the
respect necessary for men to stop treating them as mere objects that can
be toyed with, abused and discarded. Therefore, reducing women to
objects of sexuality at a political rally by putting them in a permanent
‘club’ atmosphere perpetuates domestic violence.
With the depth
of disregard and contempt displayed to the women of Guyana by these
leaders, is it any wonder that so many women are being beaten, raped,
tortured and murdered everyday? How will the youth of today ever learn
to form healthy and respectful relationships when their leaders do not
seem to know about healthy and respectful relationships?
matters even worse, Mr Ramotar is married! After speaking with Mr
Ramotar about his wife earlier this summer, I believed he held her in
high regard. However, no husband who respects his wife that would do
what he did on that stage last weekend. It would seem the president is
being a bad influence on Mr Ramotar.
Sexual harassment is a form
of sex discrimination. The legal definition of sexual harassment is
“unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is
severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile
The fact that most of those on the stage at
last weekend’s rally in Kitty were being paid by the PPP or the
government made that situation a hostile working environment for the
Moreover, that the conduct in question was done in front of
“thousands” of attendees and then broadcast throughout the nation and
put on the Internet to go throughout the world, it then created a
hostile living environment for all Guyanese women.
Human Services, Priya Manickchand, knows the definition of sexual
harassment. She also knows what a hostile working environment is. She
knows the only way domestic violence will stop in Guyana is by changing
the existing social norms that degrade women.
Why has the Minister
not put an end to this demeaning behaviour toward women? Why has she
not, at the very least, condemned the shameful conduct? In fact, it
would seem the entire PPP elite needs a comprehensive sensitivity
training course. Madam Manickchand, if you want men to start respecting
the women of Guyana, you need to start with the men in your own party.
should be seen at these political rallies giving stirring political
speeches focused on how they are going to participate in transforming
the country. We should see them displaying their intelligence, their
ideas, their platform and their plans. Women attending the rallies
should be seen as potential voters who want to make informed choices at
the polls. They should not being objects of sexuality.
incessantly bombards us with sexualised images of women. Kaieteur News
gives us a pretty face to look at every Sunday. But the government of
Guyana should be leading the country in a different direction. The men
of the PPP should be the standard to which the men of the nation can
look for an example of how to treat a woman. God forbid they use the
example they see now from the men in the PPP.
I do not know of any
other president or presidential candidate who could behave in such a
vulgar way in view of the whole world and still continue in that role.
Any other political party would have publicly shamed them and attempted
to save face by saying it would never happen again. The PPP has done no
such thing, which leads one to assume it is just fine with their leaders
disrespecting Guyana’s women.
It is not fine. It is not ok. In
fact, the President and the PPP presidential candidate owe the women of
Guyana an apology for further perpetuating the already insufferable
situation in which they live. But let’s be honest. An apology will not
be forthcoming. If these men did not esteem women enough to refrain from
public backballing in the first place, they will not find enough regard
for women to apologise now.