Monday, October 15, 2012

A better way for justice

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 6 October 2012)

If I had a wish for Domestic Violence Month, it would be that every female victim of this beastly crime would garner enough courage and foresight to testify against her offender. Sadly, that is not the case and many offenders walk away with a smirk on their face ready to abuse again.
There are many reasons victims of domestic violence do not testify against their abusers. Some women are financially dependent upon the man and it is difficult for these women to see a way to support themselves and their children without the man and they often choose to continue with the abusive relationship so there is food on the table and a roof overhead.
Some women do not testify against the offender because they truly believe the offender can and will change. There is a sincere love for the man and they disbelieve that a man they love could be so cruel, that is until the next violent episode. He will beg for forgiveness, bring flowers or gifts and tell her how much he loves her. Everything is just fine, until it isn’t and she is once again bruised, bleeding or dead.
Other women do not testify because of terror. These women have no pretty delusions that everything will be fine, they know firsthand just how deadly the offender can be. They have seen it firsthand. They have felt it on their body and seen it in the abuser’s eye. This victim also knows that if they testify and the offender still goes free (as happens frequently), she will pay a hefty price for her testimony and perhaps the ultimate price.
It is for these reasons and many more that victims of domestic violence do not testify against the offender. Sadly, the end result is more abuse and sometimes death. There simply has to be a better way to pursue the domestic violence offenders.

Join the ‘Badass Sisterhood’

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 29 September 2012)

There are reports of groups of women in Northern India that visit abusive husbands and beat them up with bamboo sticks unless they stop abusing their wives. After Guyana has yet another brutal murder of a woman and her two children by her partner, the formation of such a group sounds refreshing.
In India, much like Guyana, it is difficult to get law enforcement to take domestic violence seriously. So these women, who are called “The Gulabi Gang” (translated as ‘pink gang’ from Hindi) because of the pink saris worn by its members, took it upon themselves to protect the women.
Sampat Pal, a mother of five and former government health worker (and a former child bride) formed the group in 2006. The group is made up of women vigilantes and activists originally from Banda in Bundelkhand district, Uttar Pradesh, India, but reported to be active across North India as of 2010.
In 2008, they even stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back on the power they had cut in order to extract bribes. They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy. This is one ‘Badass Sisterhood,’ as it has become known on the Internet where this story has been viral for months now.
After reading about the woman who was murdered this past week by her partner, I then read this quote on Facebook, “A woman needs a man to protect her like a daughter, love her like a wife and respect her like his mother.” I know the woman who posted this quote thought it wise, but I was upset by it.
Why does a woman need to be protected? So that men do not hurt her, right? Which means we are expecting men to protect us from men. What, then, happens when those men who are to be protectors become the ones from whom women need to be protected? We know what happens. Women die.
This logic was quite evident even to Susan B. Anthony who lived in a time of so-called gentlemen when she said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
Can women escape from men? Tradition holds that women need to be protected, so they must have a man in their lives. However, as reality has sadly proven time and again, it is from those very men that women need the most protection. As a result, if men do not “protect” women, and law enforcement does not protect women, are women to just cower in the corner and wait to be demeaned, raped, beaten and to eventually die at the hands of the man who says he loves her?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Leave him

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 22 September 2012)

This week, a wife went to court for throwing the spectacles of another woman into a trench because her husband was rubbing the other woman’s face. Any woman on the face of this planet can sympathise with this wife’s feelings of pain, betrayal and disrespect after seeing what her husband was doing with another woman in public.
Let’s face it; if a man is rubbing the face of another woman in public, he is probably doing much more behind closed doors. A woman is better off without such a man. He will cause her nothing but more hurt and pain if she does not leave him. Yet still, in this story, by tossing the other woman’s glasses into the trench it was the wife who ended up being arrested and in court.
Sisters, we have got to be smarter than to be the one who ends up in court while the cheating man walks away with a smirk on his face. The victim in this scenario was the wife, yet because of the way she reacted, she was the one who was placed before a judge. She should have just walked away and kept walking far away from that man.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The end of men

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 15 September 2012)

There has been much buzz this week about a new book, entitled “The End of Men and the Rise of Women,” by Hanna Rosin. The book, based on her very popular 2010 Atlantic cover story, “The End of Men,” explores the much talked about predicament of why men, who have for millennia dominated every aspect of the human experience (except birthing a child), are now in large part failing to adjust in a society where women are thriving.
In a September 10 column on Rosin’s book, titled “Why Men are Fail,” New York Times writer David Brooks illustrated the dire situation men find themselves in: “In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees. Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.”
The article said Rosin argues that women “…are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.”
And while some may say that it is just how men are and they cannot help themselves, the article said Rosin’s books posits, “This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

She will not shut up

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 8 September 2012)

Last week, I wrote about local female musician Jackie Hanover, who has a song out that encourages women to be independent and to make a good life for themselves. This week, I want to highlight another local female musician who is also sending out a positive message for women.
Lucieann, from Berbice, has recently released a powerful song, entitled “I am Woman,” that speaks to the issue of domestic violence. The titular woman of the song starts out talking about how the man tells her he loves her and needs her, but yet he likes to beat her “like a drum.” But, (Woohoo, there is a “but”!) according to the song, she is woman and she is strong and she is not going to put up with the violence for long.
The woman talks about the sweet talk from the abuser, who wants to show her the type of love that will make her blush. He is just going through a hard time and she should be patient… but all she sees are swollen eyes and broken hearts. She will not shut up, she is going to lift her voice, and she is going to make some noise (honestly, women have been acquiescent and silent for far too long).
The woman continues, saying she tried to deny the truth from the start and told herself so many lies. She gave love from her soul and all he did was beat on her bones. She won’t take it anymore. Good!!
There are so many women who do not want to admit they are in a domestically violent relationship. The myriad of reasons for not wanting to face the truth could include low self-esteem (feeling as if one does not deserve better), feelings of affection toward the abuser, fear of retaliation from the abuser, social expectations to stay within the abusive relationship, financial reliance on the abuser, social expectations to accept the abuse as part of life, and the list goes on.
Are you a victim of domestic violence? Do you think that you might be, but you are unsure? Wikipedia is not an authority on domestic violence, but the following definitions from that site can provide the reader with a description adequate enough to help determine whether she is a victim of domestic violence.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

An anthem for all women

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 1 September 2012)

They say art is a reflection of society. If this is true, the local female musicians are proving that the women of this nation are on a good path.  I have heard two songs from two separate female artists that show just how much the mentality of women is changing from that of brutalised victims dependent on the money of a man to that of an independent survivor who refuses to be a punching bag.
I came across the first song in July and instantly fell in love with it. Jackie Hanover both wrote the lyrics and sings the song, entitled “Ladies Anthem.” The lyrics empower and challenge women at the same. Take a look at the words of the song’s chorus:
Ah yo money buy de ford and de rover
De cute Chanel bag on yo shoulder
Cah you na beg no man fi nothin (You na beg no man nun)
No boy cyan see you out ah road
and ah pull off ya frock
Cuz him money buy it and him want it back
Cah you na beg no man fi nothin (You na beg no man nun)
These words show a new standard is forming in a society where women have been taught that it is acceptable to depend on a man for everything from food to shelter. This new standard being promoted in this song can be easily found in society. Just take a look around or talk to the women around you and it will become clear very quickly that women are deciding to take care of themselves instead of relying on a man to take care of them.

The War on Women in the US

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 25 August 2012)

I seldom talk about women’s issues in the United States in this column for one very important reason: there are so few columnists (if any) in Guyana who focus on the women’s issues of this country.
However, it is important to touch on the fact that this past year has seen the rights of women in the US diminished as those who would love to see a return of the “barefoot and pregnant woman” era find their way into power. People of a twisted mentality similar to that of Todd Akin – of the now infamous “legitimate rape” statement – are coming out of the proverbial woodwork.
I am going to be quite honest and say it is a scary time for women who value their rights in the US. In fact, in the last year, there has been a lot of new legislation presented and passed that restrict or rescind women’s rights, such as a woman’s right to have an abortion and women’s right to fair and equal pay.
This new breed of politicians even refused to renew the Violence Against Women Act, which provides for community violence prevention programmes and battered women’s shelters. The Act was originally passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized by Congress twice in bipartisan votes, but not this time.
I am going give my explanation of why I think this is all happening right now. I believe there are some men who have seen that women are taking their rightful place in society and it scares them. They are afraid of losing their power for the first time in thousands of years and they are scrambling to find a way to stop the women.
They are trying to create an atmosphere that would force women to have children by restricting abortion and contraception in order to push all women back into the home and out of the workplace. They are refusing to protect women who are being beat and abused in hopes that the men can beat the women back into “submission.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why race doesn’t matter

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 11 August 2012)

I am writing on racism today because I have seen it in all its cruelty and ugliness too often in recent weeks. Some of the comments I have seen Guyanese make about other Guyanese are so abominable that it makes my stomach lurch. I have never had a tolerance for racism and quickly remove racists from my life if even one sentence of race hate is muttered.
What purpose does race hate serve in a society? No good purpose, that is for sure. It highlights an insignificant difference in the population in an attempt to make one race appear superior or inferior to another – much like sexism does with gender. I am writing this column to show that such differences are irrelevant to humanity and that racism is counterproductive to the positive development of the nation.
A few years ago, I read something about race that has long stuck with me. It was a passage from “When God Was A Woman” by Merlin Stone. The book is not about race, but one sentence caught me and I’ve always remembered it.
Speaking of the aggressive northern Aryan invaders, who felt themselves superior to the more civil and developed Near East inhabitants, the author said, “But historical, mythological and archaeological evidence suggest that it was these northern people who brought with them the concepts of light as good and dark as evil (very possibly the symbolism of their racial attitudes toward the darker people of the southern areas) and of a supreme male deity.”
When I read that passage, I stopped reading and chewed over the notion that perhaps it was at that point in history when racism started and subsequently continued to spread to the extent that in much of the world, a person’s skin colour became a determining factor in how much respect and freedom that person should be afforded.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The female Olympians

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 4 August 2012)

I have been in sports heaven this past week. I look forward to the Olympics for one reason only:  to see women athletes perform on an international stage while the world watches intently. Let’s face it; there are very few other venues by which we can watch female athletes perform.
Throughout the world on a national level, sports enthusiasts can watch male cricket, male football, male basketball, American male “football,” male baseball, male hockey, male rugby, male wrestling…male everything! I cannot think of even one example of female sports to watch at all on a national level.
Men like to think they alone are interested in sports. Like education, politics and religious leadership, they want it to be a man thing (insert caveman growl here). It seems they like the idea of being able to own this part of the human experience, too. But those men who believe women are not interested in sports are as wrong on that assumption as they were about women not being interested in education, politics, technology, religious leadership and so much more.
For example, I love sports. I love to watch sports, though not all sports. I am not a fan of any sport that involves violence. Because of my abusive childhood, I cannot watch violence of any sort without flinching. As such, sports such as American football are not appealing to me at all.
However, I am an avid baseball fan (in spite of fact that US national teams are all male). I keep up with the stats of my favourite team and love to go to games. Likewise, I have also been so excited for weeks in anticipation of the Olympics and I’ve been up at 4 am many days this past week watching the games with enthusiasm.

You shouldn’t blame domestic violence for the breakdown of the family

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 28 July 2012)

I have seen it stated over and over that the breakdown of the family structure is the cause of domestic violence. I have never seen it this way. In fact, I have always seen it as the exact opposite – that domestic violence is the cause of the breakdown of the traditional family structure.
The continued scourge of domestic violence has also been blamed on the loss of morals and values. Still, I cannot see this as a cause for abuse because domestic violence has existed for thousands of years. There has been no loss of morals regarding this issue, as it has been a moral issue for millennia. Even in Guyana’s brief history there is evidence of domestic violence.
Although this quote from the online Guyana Journal is focused on female Indian indentured servants, the domestic abuse issue applies to all Guyanese. The essay entitled, “Indian Women of Guyana; reflections of their existence, survival and representation,” by Janet A. Naidu, said the following:
“While Indian men suffered because of the scarcity of women and were even killed as a result of British overseers’ sexual exploitation of women, Indian women suffered even more, not only by British overseers on the estates but also by their husbands at home.
The scarcity also led to the perpetuation of child marriage, with many young women forced to have older husbands and this, in some cases, leading to domestic violence and murder of women. In 1896, 11-year old Etwarea’s marriage was arranged by her parents to the wealthy Seecharan, age 50, who paid her parents ‘a cow and calf and $50 and made a Will leaving his property to his wife.’ He later suspected her at around age 16 of being unfaithful and ‘sharpened his cutlass and completely severed [her] right arm’ after which she died.”
Sounds like how some of Guyana’s women still die even today. My point is that domestic violence has been around for a very long time. It existed long before the recent so-called “breakdown of the family.” As such, we cannot say domestic violence is caused by the breakdown of the family.

For the Linden mothers

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 21 July 2012)

I had intended to write about Jackie Hanover’s great new song this week. However, the sad events of the past week made writing about a song–regardless of how awesome it may be–seem inappropriate.
Death is no time to sing and dance. So, I will write about Jackie’s song another time. This week I will talk about my son. Whatever else they may have been in the community,the three men killed earlier this week were sons from their first breath on this earth.
This week, I saw my eldest son for the first time in three and a half years. I cannot even begin to explain how much I have missed him. He followed the love of his life to Australia and is now a permanent resident in that country, leaving his mom and the rest of his family back home and missing him incredibly.
It is quite expensive to travel between Australia and the US, so this is the first time since he left that we have seen his face. There were days when I missed him so much that it physically hurt in my chest to think about it. Still, I did not know just how much I missed him until I was at the airport looking for him.
Uncontrollable tears started streaming down my face as I looked for him. When I found him, I ran to him and threw my arms around his neck crying without restraint at this point and trembling from the joyful emotions of it all.
I have been able to hug him anytime I wanted for a couple days now. I’ve been able to kiss his face. I’ve cheerfully told his fiancée all kinds of stories about his childhood and teenage days. I have him for a few more days to spoil and hug and kiss. I am one very happy momma.
As he woke me up playing a guitar in the other room this morning, I smiled at his inconsideration because his fiancée told me he does this to her early in the morning while she is still sleeping. My wry smile did not last long as the realisation of this week’s deaths was the next thought to cross my mind.

How to build a beautiful life

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 14 July 2012)

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she loved her life. I commented on her post, “You’ve made a good life for yourself. The life you love is a direct consequence of the fact that you made good decisions for yourself.”
Creating a good life is no easy thing. Life seems to throw all kinds of obstacles in the way until sometimes it is easier to just give up or to self-medicate to forget about how hard life can be.
We all want a beautiful life, but we do not think about what it takes to create such a great life. A beautiful life does not just happen and is not reserved only for lucky people. A beautiful and fulfilling life is crafted and carefully implemented through years of planning and good decision-making.
For example, my friend has created a beautiful life for herself, but it was not always this way. She has gone through some tough times and had to make some very difficult decisions. However, she faced her problems head on and found the strength to pave a path that would lead to a better life.
We have all made bad choices at some point in our lives. Who hasn’t been there? It could be as simple as doing something without thinking that casts a reputation that does not truly reflect the person inside. Or it could be an unwise choice, like deciding to date a “bad boy” instead of a guy with a good heart that comes from a stable home.
In the end, that bad boy could cause physical, emotional and mental harm that will stick around for years – maybe even the rest of you life. Such decisions not only effect you, Sister, but if you get caught in a long-term abusive relationship, it can effect your children, your extended family and your friends.
All because you thought it would be cool to date a “bad boy.” Bad choice. Bad choices never create beautiful lives. If you choose badly, bad things will be the result. No one is immune to this pattern. Our choices determine the course of our lives.

Corporal punishment is ineffective and counterproductive

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 7 July 2012)

The ongoing conversation on corporal punishment is of particular interest to me because I am a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of my own mother. I comprehend that in some minds there is a difference between spanking your child and beating your child, but because of my abusive background I see things a bit differently.
Though it was years ago, I have written before on the abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother who abused me verbally, emotionally and physically, day after day, year after year, until I moved out of her house and married. In fact, the fervour that burns deep inside me against violence of any sort is ensconced in the brutal memories of a defenceless little girl.
Growing up in my mother’s house, there was not a time when I do not remember being abused. There was a time when I must have been around three or four years old and my mother, angry at something other than me, grabbed me and knocked my head into the knob of a door until my white-blonde hair turned red. This was not discipline – it was abuse.
Likewise, although packaged a bit differently, it was also abuse when a father recently told his wayward 14-year-old daughter “…to pack her clothes but as she was doing so, he dealt her several cuffs about her body. He then beat her with a belt and thereafter an electric wire, telling her ‘the belt isn’t working.’ After the thrashing, he then ordered her to take a bath.”
Thanks to a magistrate, the father will serve six weeks in jail for what he did to his daughter. I wish someone had given my mother six weeks in jail when I was young so she would have understood that beating her daughter was wrong.
How on earth can anyone think that using violence against a child will give her/him the necessary tools to make rational decisions about his/her life? Yes, that young girl was looking in all the wrong places for love and acceptance already. But how could any sane parent believe that beating her would solve the problem?

Our justice system is turning victims into criminals

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 30 June 2012)

I have lamented time and time again about how victims of domestic violence have nowhere to turn for protection in Guyana. When they finally get the nerve to go to law enforcement for help, they are told it is a private matter and to go back to their abusers, where the violence continues and where some even die.
Even when law enforcement does do something about the abuser, getting a conviction is another story. Far too often, files are “lost” and money is exchanged for justice. Moreover, the government remains impotent on this issue as long as they cannot find the will to ensure the enforcement of the laws it created to make domestic violence a crime.
It was only a matter of time before women started to do whatever it took to protect themselves. However, it seems that as victims of abuse start defending themselves, they are being arrested, charged and fined for trying to stay alive and safe from harm.
This week, a victim of domestic violence for 17 years was in court for hitting her husband with a rolling pin, after he twisted her arm, which was just out of a cast. He also threatened to twist it more when she would not give him the cell phone that belonged to their son. (Is anyone else wondering how her arm was broken in the first place?)
Here is what the Stabroek News article from June 26 said:
“She explained that the reason why she hit her reputed husband with the rolling pin was because he held on to her hand which was broken. She explained that the cast had been taken off her arm only two days before the incident and the only means to get the virtual complainant (VC) to let go of her arm was to hit him with the rolling pin…
“She said she pleaded with the man to stop holding on to her arm as he might cause it to break again but he responded by saying that he would ‘break all two.’ The defendant, who said the man hits her, then broke down in tears saying: ‘I put up with he for 17 years and this is how he repaying me.’ She said she has suffered blows at the hands of the man on many occasions.”
According to the article, the magistrate asked the woman if she had ever reported the abuse and the woman said she had not, at which point the magistrate pointed out that the man had “no hesitation in reporting the matter against her.”
The woman admitted that she had assaulted her husband, but in my opinion, this was an act of defending oneself. He is clearly the one who inflicted violence upon the woman first, she asked him to stop, he did not stop and instead threatened additional violence, she then took defensive measures to ensure her safety. I do not see any criminal act on her part at all.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Talking loud and doing nothing

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 23 June 2012)

Lately I have noticed a common grievance among certain men concerning gender equality. These men recognise the progress being made by women in this area; however, they believe there can be no real discussion on gender rights if men are not included in the discourse.
I saw a comment on Facebook this week where one man said men “must also carry the torch with women if the walls of the existing patriarchy are to be broken down. Anything less is ineffective…any discussion on gender must be inclusive or it is a complete waste of time. All men are not the enemy.”
Another gentleman expressed similar sentiments to me when he said, “Any decent-minded human being would /should see the seriousness and try to help curb the senseless taking of lives. I’m saying that the more men are involved with you Sisters in this fight [the] more in-road[s] will be made.”
Although I get what these caring men are saying, one certainly cannot blame women for feeling like men do not understand or even care about the problems women face. After all, most of those problems were created and continue to be perpetuated by men on a daily basis.
Yet still, I willingly and happily agree that there are some men who want to fight for gender equality. These men truly understand the issues and are genuinely moved to action. But let us be honest and acknowledge that they are few in number.
The rest of these good-hearted men believe in the idea of gender equity in theory because the words sound good and they know it is the right thing to do, but they still continue objectify women and continue with the old habits that are at the very core of what propagates domestic violence and gender inequity.
For example, I posted this statement on my Facebook page; “You shouldn’t slut shame, after all every normal healthy person likes sex.” My purpose was simply to state that it is wrong to make a woman feel guilty for enjoying sex, a natural biological function, by calling her a slut. There were several male friends who were emphatic in their affirmation of my point.
One respected male friend responded thus, “Have you observed how you’re getting all these male responses Sis. Stella Ramsaroop? Keep dangling this approach like a ‘carrot stick’ [and] you would surely get more male support and contribution in your advocacy against domestic violence and abuse. You Sisters can’t fight it alone. We’re in this together. Right Brothers?”
I responded like this: “No offense, Bro, but why should the brothers need a ‘carrot stick’ to support our fight against domestic violence. I don’t do this for a reward. I do it because people are dying. Shouldn’t that be enough reason alone?”
This is the problem I see when it comes to men who want to join women in the quest for gender equality. First of all, there does not need to be a special invitation for men to join the fight for against domestic violence or gender equality. Secondly, men should not require a reward for joining the fight if they are sincere in their objective in supporting women.
Moreover, what are the men waiting for? Where are the men who are standing up and demanding the government do something about the scourge of domestic violence? Where are the men who are outraged at the constant maternal deaths? I hear crickets chirping and nothing else.

Celebrating men

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 16 June 2012)

Every week, this column celebrates women in all their glory, whether by highlighting the great things women accomplish and presenting her-story, or by underscoring the many injustices meted out to women and standing up for their rights. This week, I want to celebrate men.
In the process of addressing the pertinent issues facing women today, which is the focus of this column, I frequently report on the problems created by the men who abuse and oppress women. However, in honour of Father’s Day I want to celebrate those men who stand with women as we fight for our rights.
It is not easy for me to celebrate men because I spend a lot of time researching women’s issues and working with women, as such I know very well the devastation men inflict on the women of Guyana and around the world. But it is exactly because of my difficulty in celebrating men that I am writing this column today.
If, as women, we neglect to celebrate the good in men, then we become just like those men who refuse to celebrate the good in women. It is their lack of respect for women that allows them to think they somehow have a right to rape, torture, oppress and murder us. Sisters, for the sake of the human race, we must not become this animal, too.
It is imperative to recognise the men who stand up to the abusers, who strive to keep women safe, who join us on the protest lines and who take a stand in legislative bodies to insist on women having equal rights and a voice. It is vital to celebrate the men who do live up to their parental responsibilities, who hold down a job and support the family instead of drinking the money away and who work side-by-side with the women doing the household chores.
Yes, I see so many atrocious things men do to women, but I also see glorious exceptions to the rule. In today’s world, where there are so many ways to harm a woman, it is so refreshing to see men who choose to care about women.
It may seem that I am congratulating good men for doing the right thing by simply being good men, which is what they should be doing anyhow. After all, no one thanks women for not beating men. Still, I think good men deserve some recognition for choosing not to be one of the animals that endanger the lives and rights of women.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Submitting to a myth

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 9 June 2012)

I attended a meeting earlier this year that included a good number of women who are devoted activists and advocates for Guyana’s female population. The overall discussion was spot on with the pulse of women’s issues in the nation.
However, there was one statement made by a facilitator of the meeting that I can’t seem to shake. She emphatically stated, “There is not a problem with submission.” She was, of course, referring to the traditional mandate that requires women to submit to men.
I wrote the woman’s statement down and put exclamation points next to it to signify my shock. I completely understand that there are some Sisters who still adhere to these traditions that require them to submit to their husbands because they were raised to believe it is right to defer to a man. However, I simply cannot understand how women do not see that this mandatory submission is one of the reasons women 1) remain in abusive relationships; 2) do not seek the help they need to escape the violence; and 3) do not prosecute an abuser and in most cases will protect him.
In fact, contrary to my dear Sister’s declaration, there is a very big problem with submission. The tradition of one gender submitting to the other (always women to men) has caused women to bow to the whims and fancies of men – always to the detriment of women and the elevation of men.
This skewed way of living has brought upon women savage atrocities like rape, torture, child marriage, constant verbal and emotional abuse, violence and murder for thousands of years – and in many instances neither victim nor her female friends and relatives are allowed to say a word in her defence.
Yes, there is a very big problem with submission. Think of all the women who have been brutally raped, beaten and murdered in Guyana in just the last three weeks. The submissive stance of those women was programmed into them from the time they were little girls so that even at death’s door they still submitted.
As a result, I am asking all of my Sisters to re-examine and challenge these long-accepted traditions (such as submission to males) in the light of the evidence that shows how much it hurts all women and, in fact, all of humanity. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting for the world to change? Stop.

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 2 June 2012)

“When will it end?” This has been the ever-present question every time a woman is murdered by her husband/partner in Guyana lately.
“When will it end?” was repeated this week after a mother of ten was hammered and stabbed by her husband. It used to be just the women who would ask, “When will it end?” Now both female and male voices can be heard in the chorus of the heartbroken. Yet the violence against women endures and the women continue to die.
I asked myself this question again this week and I found an answer. I know when the violence against women will stop. It will stop when women make it stop. You see, violence against women is not a new phenomenon.
It existed in ancient times, when the Bible says the Israelites went around conquering other tribes (especially those who worshipped feminine deities), either killing the women or taking them as slaves or “wives” (against their will). Still today, rape along with other such violence against women is used as a “weapon of war.”
Violence against women existed during the days of the Inquisition, when, according to some reports, as many as nine million women were murdered as witches. Even today, women who practice holistic healing or explore feminine religions are stigmatised as “witches” – as if it were a bad thing to heal others or to choose your own religion.
Moreover, all through the ages, women have been subject to domestic abuse, sold as sex slaves, put on funeral pyres to be burned alive alongside their dead husbands, isolated inside houses away from the world, refused an education and given as brides while still little girls to be forced to have sex and babies before their bodies were ready for either.
This all still happens today. And today girls are killed before they are even born, just because they are girls. There are just so many ways to torture and murder women and it seems men like to be creative in their violence – as is evidenced by the headlines this week.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

There will be blood

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 26 May 2012)

I have been pondering the “purity” factor imposed on women for a couple of months now. I have talked about it with friends, read about it in books and watched a documentary about it. It seems there are just so many ways that a woman can be “icky.”
For example, social norms has long held that if a woman has sex before she is married, she is not pure. When she is on her menstrual cycle, she is not pure. In fact, just by virtue of being a woman, she is so unclean that she cannot enter certain religious areas or functions.
In other words, we are made to believe that by just being alive a woman is unclean. Nonsense! How on earth does it make sense that it is okay for a man to have sex before marriage, but it somehow makes a woman impure?
Sex is a natural biological function for both females and males. Sex does not (or should not) improve one gender’s honourable standing while degrading the other’s.
Yet there is a constant demand throughout recent history to make sure the girl stays a virgin and thereby “pure’ while the man can have sex as much as he wants without any declaration of icky-ness.
And then we have menstrual cycles. Oh my! It really gets me mad when I think that patriarchal societies have turned the very blood that makes life into an unclean and evil thing.
A woman’s period is yet just another biological function. There is nothing – I repeat, NOTHING – that is gross, unclean or impure about a menstrual cycle.
In fact, it is because of the woman’s menstrual cycle that any of us are even alive today. That menstrual blood should be revered, as it once was millennia ago, rather than held in contempt. Sadly, women believe it when they are told they are somehow “unclean” when on their periods.