(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 29 October 2011)
Within the last three weeks, there have been reports of women being
assaulted, both verbally and physically, while participating in
politics. These events are of particular relevance as just last month 28
female politicians from various nations signed a declaration that their
countries would ensure the safe participation of politics for women.
Joint Declaration On Advancing Women’s Political Participation said in
part, “We call upon all states, including those emerging from conflict
or undergoing political transitions, to
eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly
marginalized women, and we encourage all states to take proactive
measures to address the factors preventing women from participating in
politics such as violence, poverty, lack of access to quality education
and health care, the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and to
actively promote women’s political participation including through
affirmative measures, as appropriate.”
It is no small thing for a woman to find a way to contribute
politically. There are so many obstacles to overcome just in everyday
life alone that the idea of adding political participation can be simply
Additionally, in a poll conducted in Guyana in 2003
of 446 women, “A significant portion held the view that ‘politics is
too dirty and ugly.’” The last couple of weeks have proven these women
to be right in their assessment. Why is it that women must fight so hard
to exercise a right that is already constitutionally theirs?
of women around the world have the right to vote and to hold political
office, but the existence of that right alone does not mean they can
always act on it without ramifications, both political and social.
domestic violence continues to steal the lives of women and children is
a human travesty. That women must also face violence as they exercise
their constitutional right to participate in the political arena is
barefaced gender discrimination.
Worse still yet is the fact that
there seems to be very few who are willing to raise their voices in
protest over the fact that there are men intimidating these women who
were brave enough to put aside the stereotypical feminine roles
concerning politics and women.
One cannot help but wonder whether
there would not have been an uproar of epic proportions if Khemraj
Ramjattan, David Granger or Donald Ramotar were faced with the same type
of verbal and physical abuse as Valerie Garrido-Lowe. So why was there
no uproar for Garrido-Lowe?
Would anyone have dared to even
attempt such a stunt with Ramjattan, Granger or Ramotar? Is it because
Garrido-Lowe is a female that these men felt such behaviour would be
tolerated by society? Did they know there would be no uproar because she
is “just a woman”? All of these questions should and must be asked and
In a nutshell, certain men intimidated Guyana’s only
2011 female presidential candidate into quitting her run for that
office. This was a shameful act. Even more shameful is the fact that the
person who chased her off is campaigning for an entirely different
political party, which shows this was not about wanting to lead the
United Force again, but about getting rid of this particular female
Even if the other United Force faction
felt it somehow had the legal right to occupy Unity House, there was no
legal right to verbally and physically abuse a political leader. This is
a perfect example of how little respect women are afforded in society.
Even first ladies and female presidential candidates are not spared the
There have been other alleged assaults against women on
the campaign trail as well. Let me make this very clear, even if there
is an argument and things get heated, there is no justification for
violence against women. Women are not animals to be beaten into
submission to the male will. Women have wills of their own that deserve
and require equal space.
Where is the outcry against this violence? Why are the president and his party not denouncing the violence?
has what is called a “critical mass” of women in legislative positions.
This means that close to 30 per cent of parliament is female. This is
an international goal that was set just a few short years ago and has
already been accomplished in Guyana. The intention of this target was to
have more female decision-makers to whom women could voice their
The female politicians of this nation should be looking
out for the women of Guyana. Yet very little of that is being done. More
often than not, these female leaders are whipped into submission and
curtsy to the agendas of their male colleagues for the sake of the
party. In the process, women’s issues get lost again.
on this issue of women being subjected to violence while participating
in politics, who among the female politicians has championed their
cause? Who has stood up for them and demanded justice? Who has demanded
that those involved be removed from their positions immediately? There
may be one or two, but Guyana’s women legislators should have come
together en masse to stand up for their gender’s right to participate in
Mark my words, dear female politicians, unless these
men are held accountable, the violence will continue – and next time it
could be you. Ask yourselves how these acts of violence will affect the
female voters and those who want to participate in politics. If I am
wrong and Guyana’s female leaders are not the “yes” women of their male
counterparts, then prove me wrong and I will happily eat my words.
want to eat my words. I want to see the fight in their eyes, but more
often than not what I see is acquiescence and compliance to the very
same patriarchal system that forces them to have to fight for every inch
of their constitutional right. Heaven help our daughters if this is not